Jorge Lorenzo has compared his current MotoGP slump with that of reigning F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Lorenzo came within four points of winning his third MotoGP title last season, claiming eight wins and 14 podiums.
But after five rounds of this season, the Movistar Yamaha rider has just one rostrum to his credit, leaving him fifth in the standings and 80 points behind Honda's undefeated champion Marc Marquez.
Lorenzo, who fell from the lead at round one then made a freak jump start error in round two, has beaten his team-mate Valentino Rossi just once this season. Last year Lorenzo outperformed Rossi in all but two events, when he was riding injured.
“All I can do is train harder than ever and wait for our moment,” said Lorenzo after a disappointing sixth place in Sunday's French Grand Prix. “We have seen in Formula One, Vettel was winning almost all the races easily last year and this year he is having problems and his team-mate is quicker. It happens.
“You have to believe in yourself and keep working. Every race we are spending more time near the first positions.”
While Vettel has radical new F1 rules to adapt to, Lorenzo was among the riders wrong-footed by changes to Bridgestone's 2014 tyres. Most, including Rossi, have since adjusted to the stiffer rubber, but Lorenzo is still having issues, despite efforts by Bridgestone to increase the edge grip of the soft compound used at Le Mans.
“The tyre was better on the edge, good grip, but as soon as we pick up the bike it starts to spin a lot in the traction area, in the middle of the tyre. The same as Qatar, Austin and all the other tracks. The bike doesn't feel the same for me in acceleration as last year.
“Anyway it is the same for everyone and here you win if you adapt to the circumstances better than the others. I think we are getting back the same confidence as last year, because we are more consistent, but for some reason in the last two races I couldn't demonstrate our potential.”
While the Qatar and Austin setbacks were down to racing incidents, most mystifying has been Lorenzo's lack of pace in the last two events - Jerez (fourth) and now Le Mans (sixth) - following what looked like a back-on-form podium in Argentina.
While Rossi led for large parts of the Le Mans race on his way to another second place, Lorenzo was eighth after a poor opening lap - but still two places in front of eventual winner Marquez.
Marquez then carved through the pack to take the lead from Rossi at the halfway stage, but Lorenzo made only gradual progress to fifth, and then lost a place to Dani Pedrosa in the closing stages.
“I think the start is very important, because in the last few years I've started always in first or second place so I could concentrate very well to ride at my best level,” Lorenzo explained.
“But if you start fifth, sixth, seventh, for me at this moment it is not the same. I struggle a little bit to be smooth. So today I didn't ride well and also the setting that I thought was better in the warm-up, with this temperature, was worse.”
Lorenzo had set more sub 1m 34s laps than any other rider during a long run in the morning warm-up.
“We moved some weight to the rear, which in the lower temperature gave us much more grip even if I lost some confidence in the front. We decided to keep this setting because I thought it was better to have the rear grip. But in the race we didn't have grip on the rear after a few laps and also the front was very bad.
“In general I didn't ride well and also the setting didn't help me to be fast... Let's see if we can start from the front row in Mugello and ride better than here.”
Of his machinery, Lorenzo added: “I think Yamaha is trying as always to give us new pieces. The bike is working quite well, Valentino is better than last year, making a lot of second places. But for the moment I don't feel the same as last year. We are improving little by little. We'll get there.”
After the race, Rossi said he thinks Lorenzo is feeling “a bit frustrated”
at not being able to match the Marquez-Honda combination after fighting so hard with Marquez in 2013.
Lorenzo insisted that was not the case: “I don't think so. We knew from Austin that the championship was almost impossible, so we don't think about winning, we think about being more competitive at every race. When the situation is bad it is very easy for people to criticise, everyone has an opinion. Let's work and wait for better times.”
On the eve of the Le Mans weekend, Lorenzo - who like most top riders is out of contract at the end of this season - said it would be a dream to stay with Yamaha for his whole career.