From what he has seen in Friday practice, Marco Simoncelli believes he, Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi will be battling for the final place on Sunday's Spanish MotoGP podium, behind Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.
Simoncelli was fourth fastest in both of Friday's practice sessions, the first of which was led by Stoner before Pedrosa moved ahead of his Australian team-mate in the slower afternoon session.
Rossi was a much-improved third in FP1 for Ducati, then fifth in FP2, while Yamaha's reigning world champion Lorenzo had the exact opposite results.
Simoncelli, who is yet to take a MotoGP podium, was a consistent 0.6sec from the top in both sessions.
“Today went well despite the windy conditions this afternoon, which made things quite difficult. We also used the same hard tyre this afternoon that we used this morning and by the end it had thirty laps on it so that also made it difficult,” said the Italian.
“However, apart from Pedrosa and Stoner who are three or four tenths clear at the moment it looks like I can run with Rossi and Lorenzo.
“We have to try and improve in certain areas but overall I am happy. Mainly it is under braking in certain areas of the track where we are lacking and we need to find more grip on a worn tyre.”
Simoncelli was fifth in round one, in Qatar, despite fuel consumption problems with his factory Honda. Fortunately, that doesn't look to be an issue at Jerez.
“Marco looks confident and the important thing is that he is not suffering the same problems with fuel consumption that he had in Qatar,” said team principal Fausto Gresini.
Team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama was ninth quickest on combined times.