Shortly after claiming his best dry qualifying performance of the season, Nicky Hayden indicated that Ducati Marlboro is not his only 'good option' for the 2010 MotoGP season.

Hayden is still waiting to hear if he will be retained by the factory Ducati team for 2010, but has done his chances no harm by being the top Desmosedici rider in all three sessions so far at Indianapolis, en route to sixth on the grid.

"I've been in years like this before," Hayden said of his present contract situation. "I try to block it out and let the managers handle the thing. I got a couple of good options. I don't know if I will be here in this [Ducati Marlboro] garage next year. But regardless, I feel pretty confident that I will have a good package."

Ducati has an option on Hayden's services until next weekend's Misano round, but the Italian factory's (unsuccessful) big-money quest to secure Jorge Lorenzo - plus rumours of discussions with yet-to-sign Dani Pedrosa - have left Hayden, and even absent team leader Casey Stoner, looking vulnerable.

With Fiat Yamaha having completed its factory line-up, and Honda intent on retaining Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, Hayden's 'good options' may include Tech 3 Yamaha or a switch to another Ducati team, perhaps with full factory backing.

Regardless, a repeat of last year's Indy podium would surely convince Ducati to give the 2006 world champion a second season at the factory team...

"Let's don't be talking podium. I'm not going to make any big predictions or nothing," said Hayden, whose best lap time was 0.458sec slower than third placed Valentino Rossi. "There are a few guys in that front group that are certainly quick. But, you know, in racing anything can happen. We have got to put ourselves in a good position to just be there and capitalise. I'll certainly try to hold on to the front group as long as I can."

Perhaps a more realistic goal would be to beat his previous best result of the 2009 season, a fifth at the first American round of the year at Laguna Seca - which, like Indy, is an anti-clockwise circuit.

"I like tracks that go left," confessed Nicky. "I grew up in America, and there are a lot of tracks that go left. In Europe, it's the opposite. I try to tell myself there is no difference, but all of my best drives go left. The results always say that."

Hayden, a close second to pole sitter Pedrosa in the wet Friday practice session, missed out on being the top American by just 0.1sec to Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards in qualifying.

"You always feel like you lost a couple of tenths in qualifying, but overall we're quite competitive," said the #69. "We'll see tomorrow. I know it will be a tough one and I'm not expecting to find a full second in the morning, but actually it has been a pretty decent weekend for us.

"I'm using a slightly different set-up here than before Brno - something we found in the test there - and it's definitely helping me through some of these flip-flop direction changes.

"The plan is to get the best start possible, try to hang on to that front group as long as I can and just give the absolute maximum."

The next best Ducati rider in qualifying was Pramac's Niccolo Canepa in 13th, 0.843sec behind the Kentuckian, while Mika Kallio - replacing Stoner - was only 15th on the second factory machine. Just as in Brno, Kallio fell towards the end of the qualifying session.

"We started the session well and my first outing on used tyres wasn't too bad. We tried a different set-up in the middle of the session but it wasn't as good and I switched back," recalled Kallio. "When we put a fresh tyre on to push for a lap time I had to abort a couple of laps because there were riders in my way, then I tried to push again and crashed.

"It was a really similar crash to the one in qualifying at Brno - I just lost front grip and the next thing I knew I was on the floor. For some reason my feeling with the front is quite vague and it is an area we know we need to work on. Hopefully we can find something before the race tomorrow."


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