Valentino Rossi believes he can take “strong pace” into the first race of the season at Qatar on March 20, despite two crashes in testing this week.
Rossi fell twice at Turn 10, on Wednesday and Friday, during the three-day test around the Losail track.
Although he produced a strong race simulation he was only fifth fastest overall, 0.6s off the pace of Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.
“Unfortunately I crashed in the same corner, but it was a small one,” he said on Friday. “Along with the team, I was able to improve the setting and I had quite a strong pace – I did a good time attack, the laptime is not so bad.
“More importantly I did the race simulation, and I was quite strong.”
Rossi believes the start of the season will be difficult, as teams are still coming to terms with the new Michelin control tyres.
“I think it will be very tough, because it looks like – from the first test to now – the other bikes improve a lot but now we are at their level,” he added.
“I think a lot of riders can be fast for the first grand prix, but anyway we are there.”
Front tyre issues
Along with many others, Rossi spoke of struggling on the softer-compound Michelin, which looks set to be changed for the race weekend.
He explained: “The problem is the track improved a lot day by day, and the stress to the front tyre is more, so we have to move. Yesterday was not too bad, but today was too soft.
“I think the last five laps will be difficult for everybody. But, anyway, my bike is good to ride, so I can stay with a good pace.”