By Stephen English
Five rounds into the 2013 MotoGP season and Nicky Hayden holds seventh in the championship standings, with top six finishes at the past two rounds.
But with the present Desmosedici little changed from last year's machine, all eyes are on the laboratory bike being developed by test rider Michele Pirro.
The Italian has also race-tested the 'lab' machine as a wild-card entry, but Hayden - who, like team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, has tested the machine - admitted that bigger gains are needed.
"If we're honest we haven't made as much of an improvement as we'd hoped," said Hayden, speaking exclusively to Crash.net
. "At the moment in terms of lap-time [the lab bike] is very similar to the current bike. So I'd say that the truth is that we haven't progressed as much as hoped."
The purchase of Ducati by Audi last year caused ripples within the motorcycling community and, while there have been changes seen at Ducati, it is still very much a work in progress with the German owners looking to implement a process towards success, in a similar fashion to their sportscar racing projects.
"There's a lot of things changed. It's different for sure but I can't say that I've seen anything that makes me think 'oh wow it's a lot better now' but it will take more time. At any level you're not going to come in and change two things and bang be winning races. To catch up takes time and R&D."
With Hayden's present Ducati contract expiring at the end of this year, there has naturally been some speculation over his future plans. The American made clear that his priority is stay in MotoGP with Ducati as he sees the potential of the bike:
"I love the team and I like Ducati and I think that eventually they'll get it right and they'll win so of course I'd like to be here for that. My plan is to stay in MotoGP."