There haven't been many highlights for Rizla Suzuki in MotoGP this season, but the few positive moments have almost all come from rookie Alvaro Bautista.

That was certainly the case in Sunday's Malaysian MotoGP, when the Spaniard equalled his highest MotoGP finish of fifth place in what the team described as his best performance of the season.

Bautista started from eighth on the grid but was forced back to 11th after contact in the second corner. As the race wore on he got involved in a four bike battle with Marco Simoncelli, Hiroshi Aoyama and Nicky Hayden.

The Spaniard made arguably the move of the day by overtaking both Simoncelli and Aoyama at the same time, to move into fifth place on the 17th lap, where he remained to the flag.

"I am very happy with today's result because I battled hard with other riders and made the result for myself," said Bautista. "Lap-by-lap I started to overtake other riders and at half distance we caught up to Simoncelli and when I saw that Spies went past him and went away I knew I had to get past Marco and stay with him.

"I got in a great battle with Simoncelli and I lost some time, and a position, but I had to recover and get past him and Aoyama. When I got into fifth, Spies was quite a way in front and it was difficult to catch him, but I did try and he could have made a mistake at any time that would have helped me get closer.

"We finished only 15 seconds behind first place and this shows we are improving, so this is very good. The bike is now better than at the beginning of the year and I have improved so we are looking forward to the last races."

The only cautionary note is that Sepang has traditionally been a strong Suzuki circuit, while this weekend's Phillip Island event is the opposite and may well provide a more accurate gauge of progress.

But there is no doubting Bautista's progression as a MotoGP rider.

"It was a fantastic ride by Alvaro today," said team manager Paul Denning. "The race had everything in it and could have been even better for him but for a bit of bumping in turn two and the fact that he lost a number of places after making a good start.

"We haven't seen many better passes than his move on Simoncelli and Aoyama in turn nine that gave him fifth place!

"After that he put his head down and tried to catch Ben for fourth - which without question he had the pace to achieve - but there just weren't enough laps left. Huge congratulations to him and his crew for an excellent performance over the whole weekend."

Meanwhile, team-mate Loris Capirossi suffered yet more heartbreak as he was forced to retire with an electrical fault. The Italian was in 11th place on lap five, when his bike slowed dramatically before stopping, leaving Capirossi with little else to do except park his bike beside the track and make his way disconsolately back to the pits.

"I really don't know what to say today, I am just so disappointed," said the Italian. "We don't deserve the things that keep happening, but we'll keep going and hope that our luck improves very soon."

The retirement marked Capirossi's seventh non-finish of the year and came after he had braved the pain of a big practice crash, which left him needing crutches to walk.

"As for Loris's weekend it's difficult to say anything that could compensate for how he must be feeling," admitted Denning. He was a hero to qualify the bike yesterday afternoon after such a huge crash in the morning and deserved a whole lot better out of the Grand Prix.

"I don't know if someone has a Loris voodoo doll somewhere that is causing us this incredible run of bad luck, but if so please put it away! He always gives 100% and deserves a good result within the final three grands prix to put a silver lining on what has been a very difficult season."

Suzuki is still to announce whether it will run one or two bikes in 2011.