By Stephen English
Former Ducati rider Casey Stoner increased the pressure on Valentino Rossi after another disappointing performance from the Italian at Jerez on Saturday.
Qualifying a disastrous 13th fastest while his team-mate, Nicky Hayden, will start from the front row of the grid has once again brought Rossi's struggles aboard the Desmosedici firmly into focus.
Speaking after the qualifying session Repsol Honda rider Stoner was keen to discuss his former team's prospects and the struggles of his rival.
"I spoke with Nicky the other day," said Stoner. "He said he's really happy with the bike, and it's probably the best [Ducati] he's ridden. He seems really confident with it but from the other side of the garage you hear the complete opposite."
With seven times MotoGP champion Rossi still unable to adapt either his style to the bike or vice versa, his struggles are set to continue with only wet weather offering an opportunity to race at the front.
It is of little concern to Stoner, with the Australian continuing to say that, "it's encouraging to see Ducati getting good results, especially with Nicky."
When the conversation turned to Rossi's prospects it was clear that Stoner felt that the Italian needs to do more if he is to return to the front of the field.
"You can be a certain amount of time off, for a certain time, but not this much," said the 26 year old. "Nicky is doing a great job with it at the moment and every test he's been to he's been doing a good job, so I don't think they're too far off the pace."
Stoner also said that, "last year I don't think there was too many problems. They started out the season more competitive. It's really complicated to understand. We can see it's not completely the bike because Nicky is getting good results and he is more and more happy with it."
Stoner and Rossi famously clashed at Jerez last year, when Rossi fell and took down the Australian in the wet race.