Ducati's lack of race pace could undermine its performance in the MotoGP season opener at Qatar, according to works rider Andrea Dovizioso.
After admitting his surprise at the team's preseason progress, Dovizioso says he is now confident Ducati can feature strongly in qualifying. He believes however that there is still a 'significant' gap to the front once the benefit of fresh rubber fades during the races, particularly given the squad's lack of race simulations during testing.
"We know that our pace isn't so far from the others' on new tires, so we should certainly be able to fight for a good grid position," Dovizioso said. "We have a significant gap to make up in race configuration, though. Unfortunately we weren't able to do a race simulation in the tests, so tire wear is a question mark for me."
Team manager Vittoriano Guareschi expects Qatar to suit Ducati, adding that a repeat of Dovizioso's fourth-place finish in 2012 – when he was a works Honda rider – would count as a good result for the team. Ducati still holds the lap record at Qatar, a 1m55.153s set by Casey Stoner in 2008.
"We've had very good results there in the past, so the track isn't an enemy for us," Guareschi said. "We've made steps over the winter, and our bike has improved at every test, so we expect to make further advances in Qatar.
"Andrea has done well at this circuit; he had a nice race there in his MotoGP debut and finished fourth, and we'll be happy if we're able to repeat that. We still have some question marks, but anyway, we're optimistic."