Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo believes he is riding better now than when he won his third MotoGP title with Yamaha.
After nine years with Yamaha, Lorenzo switched to Ducati for 2017, though found adapting to the Desmosedici a difficult task as he endured his first winless year in the premier class.
He ended the campaign seventh in the standings on 137 points, and with just three podiums to his credit – the best of those a second place finish in Malaysia.
Admitting that he still has a lot of work to do to become “completely comfortable” on the bike, Lorenzo is adamant he has become a better rider since joining Ducati.
“Honestly, I think I'm a better rider now than I was two years ago,” he said.
“I'm riding another bike with positive things and negative things, and little by little I'm taking quite the maximum with this bike I can get, even if I think I have margin to improve this performance.
“But I'm still not completely comfortable, I cannot ride it the natural way I would like.
“Every time we are getting closer, I'm very happy about the work of the team, they try to give us a better bike.
“Six victories for Andrea [Dovizioso, teammate], quite good second half of the season from my side, I think we will be quite ready to fight from the beginning, both riders, to try again to win the championship [this year].”
Lorenzo fully expected 2017 to be a difficult year, but relished the challenge of adapting to the GP17 and remained confident throughout he would eventually be competitive on the bike.
“Well, first of all I decided to start this project because I wanted a new challenge and stimulation, something really difficult to get, that is winning the world title with Ducati," he said.
“I said when I made the decision, if I wanted to stay in my comfort zone I would have stayed at the same team I raced for nine years.
“I took this challenge because I knew it would be difficult, I knew Gigi [Dall'Igna, general manager] and I wanted to do something new, something more stimulating for my motivation.
“[It] was very hard, especially in the beginning of the season, we didn't have the new fairing that gave me more confidence on the front.
“I needed to ride the bike in the opposite style I rode normally, but as you see it was a matter of time.
“I've always been competitive with all the bikes I've had in my career, and I knew it would be the same with Ducati. I'm almost demonstrating that now.”
Additional reporting by Lena Buffa