Valentino Rossi's Saturday at Aragon went from 'a disaster' in final practice to 'not that fast' in qualifying.
The Italian legend was eleventh and 1.473sec off the pace in morning practice and could only make a little headway in the afternoon as he struggled to find a competitive package for the new track.
The 31-year-old was still confident he could do enough with the softer tyre at the end of qualifying to put him on the second row, but a small mistake lost him time and he could only qualify seventh, 1.075sec from Casey Stoner.
"This morning was a bit of a disaster!" said the reigning seven time MotoGP champion. "This afternoon things were a bit better but we are still not that fast.
"Unfortunately, with the softer Bridgestone tyre at the end for my fast lap I made a small mistake and lost half a second, otherwise I think I could have been fourth.
"Now we have to start from the third row and the start of the race will be very important because I have to try to improve my position and stay with the leaders."
Rossi and his crew will work hard tonight to try to find a way to improve their pace and use tomorrow's warm-up to make some last minutes adjustments.
"We have some ideas and we will use the warm-up to try to find a way to improve our pace. It will be a hard and long race but we will do our best," said Rossi.
"We're struggling a bit here and we didn't improve our pace today as much as we were hoping to," added Rossi's crew chief jerry Burgess. "Starting from the third row isn't ideal but we will look at the data tonight, come up with some ideas and use the warm-up tomorrow to check a few things and try to make sure we've got a bit more up our sleeves for the race."
Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team-mate and world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo qualified in second place.