Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso believes he could have finished higher up the order in Qatar than his impressive fifth place on the factory Desmosedici after encountering slower traffic on a fast lap.

The Italian MotoGP star, who joined Nicky Hayden in the team for 2013 from the Tech 3 Yamaha outfit, lapped in 1m 57.538s to leave himself 0.853s behind the best time of FP1 set by Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo and just 0.262s adrift of Repsol Honda's Marc Marquez in fourth.

Dovizioso said: "I'm really pleased with the lap time, especially because I did three laps like that and I could have been even better if I hadn't come across traffic.

"Anyway, the times aren't really a reference in terms of pace, as the first session is always a bit strange here due to the sand.

"It's definitely possible to improve," he added.

"The riders ahead of me used soft tyres, and I was the only one to use the hard front. It could be a choice for the race. Tomorrow there are two important sessions in which we can work on our pace.

"Anyway the start and the feeling was good."

His team-mate, Hayden, was 10th fastest - 1.2s down on Lorenzo - with the American confident of a solid start to the new season under the floodlights in Qatar on Sunday if he can make some gains at specific sections of the Losail circuit that were causing the 2006 world champion problems on the first night.

"It's certainly good to get the season started. I was having a lot of trouble in my first exit, and I'm not sure what the problem was," he said.

"When we switched to my other bike with different tyres, the feeling improved and I started putting in some decent laps. I was getting better as the track cleaned up, but I was losing a lot of time in the last three rights.

"If I can figure out that section and get it to wheelie less, I should be able to improve quite a bit," added Hayden. "It's not a great start, but I think if we can improve a couple of things, we can put up a good fight here."


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