A year is a long time in motorsport and while Cal Crutchlow started last year's Qatar MotoGP from the middle of the front row, tonight he could only manage the middle of the third row.
Having struggled for cornering grip throughout the weekend however the Englishman was happy with the improvements made by Ducati on Saturday.
“I'm happier than this time yesterday," commented Crutchlow. "We made some steady improvements today but I already knew I was going to Qualifying 1. It was tight with Nicky there at the end. I used a used tyre from yesterday. I didn't want to use a new tyre. So I knew I had to pull a lap time out.
“So I was happy to get through that and then did a good job in Qualifying 2 to be three tenths off pole. I don't think we gained from the soft tyre. I think if our bike was working well we could have done that time on our harder tyre. But I did a faster time than last year where I was second, so it shows how much the pace has increased.”
Having spent three seasons learning to ride a Yamaha to mirror the style of double MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, Crutchlow is now having to 'start again' with his Factory Desmosedici machinery.
“I've spent three years being taught to ride like Lorenzo. And Lorenzo, in my eyes, is one of the best riders. Maybe the best rider. I ride very similar to him as such because Daniele [Romagnoli], my crew chief, worked with him before,” said Crutchlow. “We've just tried to adapt my style. It doesn't look like it on the bike, because I move around a little bit more. But actually how I release the brake, how I brake a little bit earlier and how I open the throttle is very like Lorenzo.”
Whilst the Lorenzo techniques paid off at Tech 3, Crutchlow admitted that there is a problem translating them to the Ducati and that finding the middle ground between his riding style and the set-up of the bike is more than likely the only way forward:
“With this bike that doesn't work! So I've now got to start again. Maybe I've got to try and ride like Marc [Marquez] or someone! But we've got no reference like that.
“I don't want to change my riding style because I believe Lorenzo is one of the best. So I think we have to do a bit of both. They have to change the bike towards that sort of riding style, because the corner speed I'm carrying now, they are saying is too much, but it's also still less than a Yamaha, or less than the Honda.
“To be competitive with the other guys you have to do what they are doing. I'm not saying every bike has to be the same. We definitely gain in braking, which is strong with this bike for sure. But I'm not the latest braker in the world. I brake early, try and release the brake and roll through the corner. So it's difficult.”
The Englishman's progression in MotoGP has seen him begin with Tech 3 in 2011 by finishing 16th overall in his rookie campaign, progressed to seventh and two podiums in year two, then fifth in the standings and four podiums last season.
Twelfth fastest after Friday practice in Qatar meant Crutchlow was forced to take part in Qualifying 1, claiming the second and final transfer place after a nerve jangling end to the session having opting to use a worn tyre throughout the session so that he could keep fresh rubber for the Q2 session.
With the times so competitive amongst the leaders and the unknown quantity of how different riders with different tyre options, Crutchlow stated that the outcome of tomorrow's race is impossible to predict:
“I have no idea how the race will go. The team is working really hard. We were the last to leave the circuit last night. I'm just trying to give them a much information as possible."
With his team-mate, Andrea Dovizioso, having confirmed yesterday that Ducati won't run the full 24 litres of fuel available in the race, when asked how much fuel he expected to use in the Crutchlow kept his cards close to his chest by joking, “I won't be telling anyone what we're going to run!”