Valentino Rossi claims a 'big question mark' is hanging over his Valencian Grand Prix hopes, after grip problems left him at the tail end of the top six for most of Saturday's qualifying session for the 2009 season finale.

The Italian, who wrapped up his seventh MotoGP crown last time out in Malaysia, later improved to fourth with the softer tyre option - but was still 0.666sec behind pole sitter Casey Stoner and isn't feeling confident.

"Today was not the best day for us," began Rossi. "We haven't found the right setting for the bike yet, we've tried hard but we don't have enough grip yet to allow us to go fast. I have to start on the second row and we have quite a big question mark for tomorrow's race.

"At the end of the session I was able to do some better laps with the softer tyre but unfortunately with these conditions we will have to use the harder tyre tomorrow," he continued. "We will work tonight and again in the morning warm-up and hopefully we can find a way to improve so that we can race as we would like to."

"We've got quite a lot of work to do at the moment and we haven't yet been able to find a good solution," confirmed Fiat Yamaha team manager Davide Brivio. "The problem is that our bike still isn't able to put enough grip on the tyres and so it's a struggle for Valentino to ride like he wants to."

But it wasn't all bad news for Rossi on Saturday, since he sealed the 2009 best qualifier award and with it a new BMW road car. "I'm happy about the qualifying award, at least we have one positive thing to take from today!"

Rossi has only won twice at Valencia, in 2003 and 2004.