Ducati Corse general manager Filippo Preziosi has admitted that main rival Valentino Rossi's form in testing so far has been "scary," but thinks the MotoGP champion is just pushing harder than usual in the preseason.
Rossi has been quickest on all four test days held so far, all of which were at Sepang last month – in contrast to recent years when Casey Stoner tended to lead the way for Ducati during the winter.
"Obviously, if you consider that over four days of testing Valentino led the way four times, which is something that Casey usually does, then the situation is undoubtedly a bit scary," said Preziosi in an interview with Motosprint. "Usually Valentino is quick most of all in the race, but if he starts to be this quick in winter testing already...
"Anyway, to see the world champion rider leading on the world champion bike, then it doesn't seem like big news. That's nothing new, really. However, I think Valentino is already in qualifying mode. I see him aggressive and focused, so I expect him to attack more in testing, too."
Preziosi thinks the tables could turn in the final test in Qatar later this week given Stoner's usual form at the Losail track, where he has won for the last three years. "In Qatar, Casey is like Valentino at Mugello," he said.
Ducati hopes that Nicky Hayden will be able to join Stoner in challenging Yamaha at the front this year.
In the last test, Hayden showed his best form since joining the squad, despite discomfort from recent arm surgery. Preziosi believes the 2010 Ducati, with its change to a "big bang" engine, will allow Hayden to be a consistent front runner again.
"The important thing is that Hayden has started to set good lap times, and most of all in a consistent way," he said. "The situation is even more encouraging if you think that he still had problems with his arms. In the last session, at Sepang, he did a stint of six or seven laps consistently in the 2m01.5sec bracket. He was among the quickest riders.
"This is the time when Nicky is going at his quickest since joining us. He had already started to improve in the second half of 2009, but now he's managed to do another small step forward. He is very methodical: he reasons over things, he explains the situation precisely, and he never gives up. It's one of his biggest strengths."