Valentino Rossi reckons Ducati proved in the Italian Grand Prix that it is closing back in on the MotoGP frontrunners, even though both the former champion and teammate Nicky Hayden were very disappointed not to take a home podium for the squad.
Rossi came through from 10th on the grid to finish fifth, 11.7 seconds behind winner Jorge Lorenzo's Yamaha.
"We are happy with the result because fifth place is not so bad, but also because of the type of race: because I had good pace to the end," said Rossi. "That is now two races where I can stay on quite a good rhythm to the last laps, and that is very important for me."
The Italian said that one of his biggest problems is now that discomfort with the soft Bridgestone tires is holding him back in qualifying and giving him too much to do on race days. Rossi has not qualified higher than seventh in 2012.
"We always struggle too much in practice because the other guys are able to improve their speed and their performance a lot with the soft tire," said Rossi. "For me, I always have some problems with the front end of the bike, and a lot of times this year when I put on the soft tire I am not able to use the extra grip because the extra grip on the rear makes my problem worse.
"So for this reason we are struggling a lot during practice. With a better position on the grid and a better start, I could've fought for the podium.
"It's a great pity because it would have been important to get a podium with Ducati here at Mugello. But it's still positive for the team - we are optimistic because the pace was good and it seems like we have a better base to improve the bike."
Hayden was in the podium battle for much of the race, but fell to seventh in a final-lap shuffle with LCR Honda rider Stefan Bradl as both tried to chase down Andrea Dovizioso's Tech 3 Yamaha for third.
"The last seven or eight laps, I could really see them coming back to me," said Hayden. "I gave it everything and I really thought I had a chance at the podium today. When I passed Bradl, I wasn't trying to defend or block, I was only trying to think about getting on Dovi's wheel.
"The thought of being on the podium today with Ducati in Italy was incredible, so to end up seventh was tough to take. It hurts because the team, me included, deserved so much more. But it's the best gap I've had to the front this season. At the moment it's pretty tough to take, but whatever, I'll get over it."