Valentino Rossi refused to panic after setting the ninth fastest time on Friday afternoon in the second MotoGP practice session in Mugello.

The Italian, who has won seven times around the picturesque 3.2 mile Tuscan track, failed to build on a strong morning showing when he switched to a hard rear tyre in the afternoon.

Problems while braking and entering the corner persisted and after an off-track excursion at San Donato - the first of Mugello's 15 corners - Rossi slipped down the order from third to ninth.

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"The practice this afternoon was quite good at the beginning," said Rossi, the championship leader by 15 points. "In the morning I did some good lap times and we improved the setting. In the afternoon the start was not too bad because I had quite a good pace and was in the top three.

"I feel not so bad with the bike but I had some problems, especially with braking and entry. I tried to modify it and try something else but unfortunately the modification that we tried I did not like a lot. With it I was not strong and not fast enough."

"At the end the position is bad because I change the tyres. I try the hard front to take some data. I also tried the hard rear but unfortunately the hard wasn't working and it wasn't giving me enough rear grip. I wasn't fast enough. I also did a mistake in the braking for the first corner and a lot of people overtake me. The position is not fantastic but I'm not too far."

Along with knowing his pace tends to improve as the weekend progresses, Rossi took comfort in the closeness of the field after 15th placed Maverick Vi?ales' best time was just 1.014s off Andrea Dovizioso's late marker. In Rossi's eyes this bodes well for Saturday's qualifying.

"Also all the top riders are very close. The distance is very small. But we have to work, especially to improve the braking and the [corner] entry while not losing agility so this is the task and the target to try and improve. We have to decide which tyre to use. Today the front was not so bad but the hard rear was not good. All is open for tomorrow."