Alvaro Bautista will be starting his second season as a Honda Gresini MotoGP rider this weekend in Qatar.

The Spaniard, who spent his first two premier-class seasons with Suzuki, took his first podiums and poles last year on his way to a best yet fifth in the world championship.

The only manufacturer rider using Showa rather than Ohlins suspension, Bautista feels 'big steps' have been taken during the winter, despite a lack of track time due to poor weather and a hand injury at the final Jerez test.

"The new season is about to start and I think we are ready," he declared. "We did a great job throughout pre-season, even though we weren't helped by the weather in the final session at Jerez. Unfortunately we still had some things we needed to test so it would have been good but we didn't get chance. Anyway, overall we have made a big step from last year.

"Racing in Qatar is always very special and it's exciting to go out on track under the lights. It's a nice track but the fact you're racing at night and the varying levels of grip makes it strange to ride. I'm curious to see how the new qualifying system works but I think it will be exciting.

"We'll keep working to make the bike more rideable and make sure we're as competitive as we can be for the race. I had a lot of problems in practice last year in Qatar and only managed to finish seventh in the race, which I wasn't happy with, so this year we'll certainly look to make up for it."