The German MotoGP at Sachsenring marked another 'character-building' event for the factory Ducati team, with Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi finishing just eighth and ninth.

The most perplexing aspect of Ducati's 2011 season has been the lack of consistent progress, from a fairly low starting point.

At the opening round of the season, at Qatar in March, Rossi and Hayden had finished seventh and ninth, 16.4sec and 27.4sec from victory.

Despite numerous developments since, including a new GP11.1 motorcycle for Rossi, the time difference to first place in Germany was 27.5sec, for both riders.

"I had a big battle with Bautista and Vale. It was fun, with a lot of overtaking, but battling for seventh place, 27 seconds back is hard for me to take at a track that I love and where I've been on the podium several times," admitted Hayden.

"It's easy to say now, but I wish I raced the soft tyre. Thanks to the team and everybody that worked hard, but we had better hopes for today, going into Laguna."

It's safe to say that seven-time MotoGP champion Rossi isn't used to being beaten by a Suzuki - Bautista winning a near race-long battle with Rossi and Hayden by passing them both on the final lap.

"After the opening laps, I realized that my pace was the same as that of Nicky and Bautista's group, maybe even a little faster, but I had small glitches with the gearbox in the second half of the race. It was mainly hurting me in the last corner, when I changed to third, because the bike wheelied and it took me half the straightaway before I could put it back down," said Rossi.

"At the end of the race, I wanted to pass Nicky on the brakes into the first corner, where I was pretty strong, but instead even Bautista passed me on the straight. Anyway, that's not where we want to be.

"We definitely improved today compared to Saturday, but we're still too far back. We find the race setup late, and that makes everything more difficult, but in order to improve we have to try many things, which makes it easy to lose our direction.

"It's understandable, because we don't know this bike well and I think we have to take chances and try everything."

Rossi had qualified just 16th on the grid for his 250th race and, despite a better race set-up, the Italian superstar is considering a switch back to the 'standard' GP11 - perhaps as early as this weekend's US Grand Prix.

"Now we'll analyse the data from this weekend and decide what to do for Laguna Seca," he said.

Rossi and Hayden have both taken one podium from the nine rounds so far held, and are fourth and seventh in the points' standings.

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