Valentino Rossi believes Ducati is starting to make good progress, both with increasing its pace and understanding the major changes it needs to make to start winning again.
At Catalunya today the former champion took his best grid spot since joining the team, but was still only seventh-fastest. But after a troubled build up to qualifying, Rossi was pleased to at least come close to the second row.
"Free practice was very bad. This morning I was very slow and also I crashed. I was very sad because we had not found the right setting," he said. "But this afternoon was better. For sure I'm not happy about the seventh place, but I have better pace and I feel better with the bike. I have quite good pace with the hard tyre, it's not so bad.
"Unfortunately on the last lap I forced it too much in the last section and I lost the second row. If not, I could have done a better lap time. But anyway sixth or seventh is not a great difference. We need to improve the rhythm by two or three tenths tomorrow and try to do a good race."
Rossi is confident Ducati is now identifying its problems and moving in the right direction.
"The situation has improved a lot," he said. "Unfortunately the distance to the top guys is too much. We need to work. The problems to fix on the bike are more clear every time. We're speaking about the front, but also the stability on the rear. Ducati will keep working. To make another step, we need something different and I hope that arrives as soon as possible."
He admitted that adapting his riding style to the Ducati's behaviour was proving a huge task.
"I need more experience with this bike," said Rossi. "It's more than difficult to ride – it's different to ride [compared to] all the other bikes in my career. Also my team have to sooner and better understand the modifications to do to the setting."