After initially struggling to make progress from a lowly tenth on the grid qualifying position, Valentino Rossi climbed to within one-second of a podium in front of his home fans at Mugello on Sunday.
Rossi, unbeaten at Mugello from 2002-2008, continued working with a set-up that allows him to set a more consistent pace throughout a grand prix race distance - but it doesn't work with new tyres, hurting Rossi in qualifying.
Rossi's best race lap was 0.74s behind Dani Pedrosa (Honda) and 0.25s slower than Hayden, whom Rossi passed when Hayden was pushed wide during his last lap battle for fourth with Stefan Bradl.
“Overall, I think today was the best dry result of the year for Ducati, because Nicky had a great race as well. We're quite happy, as our pace was very good, especially toward the end,” said Rossi, who finished 11sec behind winner Jorge Lorenzo and one place higher than in last year's Mugello round.
“Unfortunately, I lost time at the beginning. Not only was I on the fourth row, but I also had a bad start. I got by some riders pretty quickly, but by then I had already accumulated too much of a disadvantage. Otherwise, I think it would have been possible to make the podium.
“We're having too much trouble in practice. Normally we're able to have a decent rhythm with the hard tyres, but when we put on the soft, we can't manage to cut those six or seven tenths that the others drop.
“For two races, we've worked on a setting that allows us to be consistent until the end of the race, but at the same time, it gives me more trouble with the front. When I put on the soft tyre, the extra grip makes that problem worse and I'm not able to effectively initiate corner turn-in.
“We have to work on that area. We have a test day tomorrow, so we'll see.”
Ducati team manager Vittoriano Guareschi confirmed that both chassis and engine developments will be available on Monday.
“Tomorrow we'll test some things with the chassis in order to improve the bike's balance, and we'll try some details with the motor in an effort to further improve rideability,” he said.