Andrea Dovizioso believes it will be much harder for fellow Italian Valentino Rossi to repeat his stunning debut Yamaha MotoGP victory with new team Ducati.
On paper, the Desmosedici is far more competitive than the M1 had been when Rossi left Honda at the end of 2003.
However Rossi was only 15th fastest at the end of his Ducati debut, during a two-day test at Valencia last November, and he headed for shoulder surgery straight after.
The seven time MotoGP champion doesn't expect to be fully fit until April or May, but the first race of the new season is on March 20.
Unlike in 2004, Rossi now has just three pre-season tests to prepare his new bike.
“It is difficult to say if Rossi will be fighting for victory at the first race because it is impossible to know the exact situation for Valentino,” began Repsol Honda rider Dovizioso. “Sure the shoulder is difficult, but I think the feeling between Valentino and Ducati at the first test wasn't so good.
“Then he made an operation and so now he feels worse. He has to try to start again after three months. Everything is difficult. I think for the first race he will be not so strong, but you always have to be 'scared' of Valentino Rossi because he has won so many titles.
“It looks like the situation in MotoGP has changed a little bit compared with four or five years ago. The level is higher and the bike is different. 800cc instead of 1000cc. I think for him it will be more difficult for him.
“I don't know how he will be at the first race, but for sure his first test was not so good.”
Rossi starts his second Ducati test alongside his 2011 rivals at Sepang in Malaysia today (Tuesday).