Reigning seven time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi began the 2010 season with third position in Friday night's opening practice session in Qatar.

Whilst the Italian may have expected to be outpaced by Casey Stoner - winner at Losail for the past three seasons and leader at the final pre-season test - he probably didn't expect injured Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo to nudge him down to third.

Rossi found he was lacking grip and, although just 0.002sec from Lorenzo, needs to find over half a second to get on terms with Stoner's Ducati.

"Honestly I expected to be faster today - the lap time is not bad but it could be better," said Rossi. "The conditions are much better than during the test, it's warmer and a lot less humid so I'm happy about that, but we don't have enough grip and I was sliding quite a lot so we need to try to find a way to improve this.

"Stoner is always very fast here and I hope we can close the gap to him by making some small changes to our suspension. If we can stop the bike sliding then we will be a lot faster," he repeated.

"At the moment we're not getting the full potential of our tyres and this is slowing us down," confirmed team manager Davide Brivio. "We are not too far off but we can be better so we'll work hard tomorrow to make a step forward."