Cal Crutchlow says he is keeping his expectations for his first MotoGP season under control after taking an impressive eighth on the grid for his debut in Qatar.
The former World Superbike rider had a low-key build-up in winter testing but has been increasingly competitive since the race weekend got underway, and will start his first MotoGP race two places ahead of his experienced Tech 3 Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards and one in front of category legend Valentino Rossi's Ducati.
Asked how he felt about starting with Rossi alongside him, Crutchlow replied: "Daunting, but it's one of those things. He's a nine-time world champion. I'm not getting ahead of myself, it's only one qualifying session, but luckily it's going a bit more to plan. Considering at the test I did a 1m57.7s, and I've just done a 1m55.5s – it's not too bad."
The Briton felt there was still more to come from his bike in qualifying.
"I've always been not a bad qualifier, but it's different circumstances," said Crutchlow. "I'm used to a one-lap superpole and getting psyched up for one lap, so a whole hour...
"We did some stuff and tested a few things with the hard tyre. We did 1m56s pace with the hard tyre which is not too bad, looks similar to seventh to 14th place. Then we put the soft in. The first run didn't go particularly too much to plan. Then we started to have a few little problems. The faster you go round the three fast right-handers, the more the front's tucking.
"So I got another tire, and scrapped the first lap because the rear tire wasn't working at all. So the second lap I had a good push, did a 1m55.5s and was happy enough, but the front was really pushing. So we've still got some stuff to look at and get set up for the race."
Crutchlow says he will not be disappointed if he cannot repeat today's result in the race itself, as long as he still performs well.
"I'm not saying I expect to finish where I qualified, but if I finish in the top 10 I'd be happy," he said. "Or if I have a good race - I could finish 16th but have a really good race."
He also promised to keep his expectations for the rest of the year realistic.
"I expect to do half-decent on some circuits that I know - and I've only ever been here once - and a little bit worse on circuits that I don't know," Crutchlow said. "It's going to be like that. But for a first qualifying session, it's not too bad."