Valentino Rossi says he is positive of a strong start to the season after an encouraging winter of testing for Yamaha.
The nine-time MotoGP champion kicks off his title defense in Qatar this weekend, and is confident his team has done its homework during the winter and that his bike will be competitive from the start.
Rossi had a difficult time at Losail last year and was unable to match the pace of Ducati rival Casey Stoner. But the Italian is optimistic he will be stronger this weekend.
"We worked well, and I was quite fast here and also in Sepang, so it looks like the new bike is already quite good, but starting from today it's another story," Rossi said. "The races are different but I think we are ready.
"We have improved our bike and we tried to work on the engine for the new rules. The feeling is positive. We tried to modify something in the way the chassis works for better grip and the bike worked very well in Sepang and Qatar. So this is positive, because especially here in Qatar last year we had some problems and I think this time it's possible to do a bit better."
Rossi said it is risky to move the race start time to 11 p.m., although he is hopeful the weather will be better than last year, when the race had to be postponed until Monday due to a deluge. Last year the race started at 9 p.m. local time.
"Last year it was a different story because it rained on Sunday and we raced on Monday but we raced at nine o'clock, so it was two hours earlier. So waiting until 11, I think, is a little bit risky. Although maybe now the weather condition will be better."
The Italian, whose contract with Yamaha runs out this year, said he is in no hurry to decide on his future: "I don't know. In 2008 I signed around June so I hope more or less the same this year. We have time to decide."