Dani Pedrosa is hopeful his Honda team will take a big step forward when MotoGP racing kicks off this weekend in Qatar.
The Spanish rider has not been completely happy with the handling of his bike during winter testing and reckons his team will need the kind of leap it took two years ago after also enduring a difficult winter.
Pedrosa admits that despite the less-than-perfect preseason, he is still positive for this weekend's season opener.
"It's time for the first race of the season and we go back to Qatar this weekend ready to put in maximum effort to do as well as possible at the opening round," said Pedrosa. "There's no need to get carried away with the nerves or expectations because this would be only detrimental for us.
"We will stay calm, be very focused and simply concentrate as hard as possible in the practice sessions in order to find a good setting for the race. Two years ago we made an incredible step forward between the test and the race weekend and we have to do it once again – we know it can happen.
"I'm starting the season without physical problems, which means that the situation is much better than in the past, so we will work hard and do the maximum to get the best result possible in Qatar. I fully trust in the team around me and I also believe in myself, so I'm feeling positive going into this weekend."
Teammate Andrea Dovizioso also conceded Honda is still off the pace of the leading teams.
"I'm really looking forward to the first race and after the long winter break and testing sessions it's a very good feeling to be heading into a race weekend again," said the Italian. "Me and the team are very motivated and happy with the work done in the preseason.
"We have moved in the right direction and have seen a big improvement through testing, and this gives us a lot of confidence for the start of the season. On Friday, we will start with the base setting from the last test session we had here in Qatar a few weeks ago and work on it further through the course of the race weekend.
"The gap from us to the fastest riders has come down, but we still need to work really hard because we're not close enough yet."