Ben Spies is eyeing a podium finish in his first MotoGP race as a factory Yamaha rider after qualifying fifth in Qatar.
The American was involved in a close battle with his teammate Jorge Lorenzo and Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli, and though he could not make it onto the front row, he was content with fifth.
"For the first race, to be in the middle of the second row is a good starting position," said Spies. "Obviously, you always want to be closer to the front, but I'm glad we were fifth rather than fourth – just to be in the middle of the track to pick a line through Turn 1.
"We left a little bit of time out there, but nothing that was going to make a big difference. I think the bike's going to do fairly well in race conditions. Casey [Stoner] and Dani [Pedrosa] are a bit of a step ahead of us, but that's how it works and we'll just continue to try and improve the bike and improve the lap time. It's not as good as the first couple of guys, but it's not bad."
Spies is confident that his Yamaha will be stronger in race conditions.
"We started out the session on a set of race tyres and when we came in I think we were around third," he said. "As long as we have a good start, stay out of trouble and stay focused and fast for the first few laps, we have the pace where we have a chance to battle for the podium.
"The race win, right now, is out of the question but I think there's going to be a pretty good battle from about third to seventh."
He remained calm about Yamaha's deficit to the pacesetting Hondas, feeling there is little fundamentally wrong with the 2011 Yamaha.
"Right now we can't change stuff overnight," Spies said. "We have a good package, right now we're not confident going into tomorrow that we have a chance to win, but it's better than others. It's not horrible by any means. I'm not disappointed yet.
"We have no big problem in any area. We need to work on making a couple of areas a lot stronger, but there's not one big complaint, the bike's actually working quite well, and it's balanced.
"We need some more speed out of the bike for the first few laps and that's about it. We've got what we've got and we'll ride at 100 percent tomorrow and see what happens."