After 14 rounds of the 2011 MotoGP season, Valentino Rossi has admitted that he and Ducati are yet to find a conclusive way forward for the Desmosedici project.
Ducati finished first (Casey Stoner) and third (Nicky Hayden) at Aragon last year, but the best Desmosedici (of Hayden) was seventh and 34-seconds from Stoner's victorious Honda in Sunday's race.
Rossi finished tenth after starting the race in pit lane, with a ten-second penalty. That was the result of using a seventh engine this season, made necessary by a series of chassis changes introduced to try and transform the GP11 project.
The latest of those changes, which debuted with Rossi at Aragon, was the switch from carbon fibre to aluminium for the front (airbox) section. But speaking after the race, Rossi sounded far from confident that it will offer the breakthrough in front-end feel.
"We're still not where we should be," said Rossi, who finished in the top six in all but one of the first eight races of this year, but only twice in the six races since.
"We're working on several fronts, with short-term solutions that haven't been conclusive, and others that are longer-term and that I still hope can bring more substantial improvements. We'll see what they think at the factory.
"For now, we're still pretty far, and given that time is our biggest enemy, we'll continue also working on development during the races.”
The 'longer-term' solutions are rumoured to involve making the Ducati more like the Japanese MotoGP bikes Rossi and his mechanics are so familiar with, by using a full twin-spar aluminium frame, with the engine carried inside rather than as a 'stressed member'.
"We work together with Ducati and we try, but at this moment we don't fix a lot," Rossi told MotoGP.com
The rate of development at Ducati is also arguably confusing matters, with three different tyres of bike now on the MotoGP grid. The satellite Ducati riders are still using the original GP11, Hayden the modified GP11.1 (also all carbon fibre) while Rossi has now switched to the 'aluminium' bike.
"Nicky and his team are also trying extremely hard to gather as much information as possible on his GP11.1 which, despite not having the updated front chassis part like Valentino's, is still a new bike with a lot of margin for improvement with regards to its setup," said team manager Vittoriano Guareschi.
Rossi and Hayden are sixth and seventh in the world championship with four rounds to go. Each has taken one podium - Hayden at round two, Rossi at round four.