Ducati began the MotoGP season just 0.174s from victory in Qatar, followed by further runner-up finishes in Austin (+2.354s) and Argentina (6.685s).

But in the last four rounds the top Ducati rider has been 24.925s, 19.109s, 20.785s and 21.528s from victory, and no higher than fourth place.

So what happened?

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"I don't know if I have the right answer, but I believe at the beginning the competitors weren't really at 100% like us. To use the potential of the bike, I mean," Andrea Dovizioso explained at Indianapolis.

"I don't believe that they [have] improved their bikes by 20 seconds. It's impossible.

"So I believe it is a mix of many things. On the bike, this can happen, because the riders can make a difference. Is not like in the car, for the drivers is easy to put the car on the limit, on the bike it is not like this, it will never be like this. This is the positive thing of our sport.

"And at that time I think there was a strange combination, and we were able to fight in front [at the start of the season]. But this is the reality, because the last four races, the gap is the same. And the confirmation is, my speed with Iannone is always the same, from the beginning to now, and the gap [to the winner] changed. So it means the bike."

The Italian added: "Is small, but almost everywhere. A little bit in the braking, a little bit in the turning, a little bit in the grip. It's very small, but one tenth plus, plus, plus, plus. Every corner. That's the gap."

Dovizioso put the new GP15 on the podium four times in the opening five races, only to suffer incidents, accidents and technical problems - on top of the apparent increase in pace by Ducati's main rivals - in most of the five races since.

That included Indianapolis, where the #4 dropped down the order after a close moment at the tight second turn.

"I made a mistake on the start, so I changed my strategy and went inside in Turn 1, so outside in Turn 2, and I gained a lot of positions," Dovizioso said. "But I was close to Crutchlow, Smith was in front of him and Crutchlow had to pick up the bike to not hit him. So then I had to pick up my bike, I was very wide and I went out of the circuit."

Dovizioso then worked his way from 21st to ninth, with team-mate Andrea Iannone in fifth.

"I did a good race to gain a lot of riders with the pace I did, but the confirmation is that we have to improve the bike a lot. Like I said, we don't have a big limit, we have a small limit in a few areas, and the mix is the gap we did. So it's quite big.

"I mean, Iannone makes 21 seconds [from race winner Marc Marquez]. A lot. Too much."

Marquez has now moved ahead of Iannone for third in the world championship, while the result cost Dovizioso fifth place to Bradley Smith.