MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi was looking on the bright side after failing to challenge Casey Stoner in Monday night's Qatar MotoGP season-opener.
Rossi found the track conditions less to his liking after Sunday's rainstorm, then dropped two positions to fourth on lap one, while Stoner charged into an early eland.
The Fiat Yamaha star recovered to second by lap three of 22, but was already three seconds behind Stoner's Ducati and - despite initially gaining on the Australian - couldn't maintain the pace and finished a massive 7.7sec behind the 2007 champion.
“Today the conditions of the track were quite different to before and this evening in warm-up we encountered a couple of small problems related to tyres, so our strategy had to change slightly tonight,” said Rossi. “It's a pity because I think last night we could have put up more of a fight, but anyway this is a good result to start the season, much better than last year.
“I knew I needed a good start in order to go with Stoner but unfortunately I didn't get one and I lost some time fighting with Lorenzo and Capirossi and by then Stoner had already gone!
“The middle part of the race was great fun and I made six or seven good laps to come much closer, but I knew I wouldn't be able to continue in that rhythm, it was too risky for the tyres and I decided it was more important to take the 20 points.”
Nevertheless, Rossi's second position is significantly better than his fifth place at Qatar last year, and he was closer to Stoner during practice and qualifying than most expected after being over one-second slower than the Australian in last month's test.
Stoner is also something of a Qatar specialist - winning the last three races at Losail, in both day and night - but last season he went on to struggle at the following rounds.
“Casey was very strong today but he is always fast here and I believe that our potential is very good; I think that we can be back fighting again in Motegi,” confirmed Rossi. “I am so glad we could race today after yesterday and I am satisfied to be leaving here having made a good start to the season - it is long!”
“We didn't win but we can consider this a good start to the season, certainly much better than in 2008. Now we need to work to fix one or two small problems that we have,” added team manager Davide Brivio. “The middle part of the race was good, we were gaining on Stoner but in the latter stages he was in a better condition to push and Valentino was right to settle for second. It's a long championship and the points are important. We are confident that we will be able to battle with Stoner in Motegi.”
With Shinya Nakano having left MotoGP, Rossi is now the only rider to have competed in every race since the introduction of the four-stroke MotoGP class at the start of 2002.
Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo finished third.