Marco Melandri says he still requires another "step forward" from Gresini's Honda RC212V before he can fight at the front for race wins again.
The Italian, a veteran of five grands prix victories in a career that has spanned seven seasons in the top class, enjoyed his most competitive performance for some time at Mugello two weeks ago. The 27-year-old just missed out on fourth place after a massive fight with Casey Stoner and Randy de Puniet.
But while Melandri has turned around his disastrous early season form, helped by a switch to Ohlins dampers similar to those used on the factory HRC Hondas, he still believes he has a way to go before he can find podium form.
"It's been a very tough winter for me," explained Melandri. "The feeling of the bike wasn't very good and I couldn't ride smoothly. After Qatar we started to improve the bike and it got better day by day, so in general Mugello was a good race for me. But I am still not happy with the gap between me and the first guys, so we need to work a bit more to reduce that.
Melandri added that part of the problem he has faced this year is getting the tires to work in qualifying.
"I have never found the feeling with the soft tire, from the first time I rode it the front feeling was never good."
Nevertheless the Italian said he could finally feel his confidence returning after two catastrophic seasons with Ducati and the privately run Hayate Kawasaki team.
"When I left Honda in 2007, since then things have been very difficult," he said. "This season it has been even more difficult because when I returned to Honda I expected the same Honda I left behind. Now I have improved it a bit and improved the feeling, and my confidence. But I still need a big step to move back to the front."