Valentino Rossi is seeking half-a-second of race pace to fight his way forwards from sixth on the grid in Sunday's Aragon MotoGP.
Rossi has repeatedly warned that his 23-point lead could evaporate if Movistar Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo is able to put the likes of Marc Marquez between them in a race.
As it turned out, reigning champion Marquez did Rossi a small favour by beating Lorenzo to pole on Saturday - only for three other riders to step up and outpace the Italian.
“The qualifying is not fantastic. For sure it is better to start more in front, but anyway the second row is not so bad,” said Rossi, who unlike Marquez and Lorenzo did two rather than three qualifying runs and abandoned one lap when he was being followed by Andrea Iannone.
“I didn't do a great lap, but anyway sixth place is not a disaster. The thing I'm more worried about is my rhythm, my race pace, because I am half-a-second slower than the top three in the pace [Marquez, Lorenzo, Pedrosa].
“So now we will try to work with the team and improve in the warm-up."
Rossi was as low as eighth until salvaging a second row start on his final qualifying lap, with a time 0.857s from Marquez, but needs a set-up solution for the race.
In final practice Lorenzo was the rider to beat in terms of average pace followed by Marquez, Dani Pedrosa and Rossi. Lorenzo set eight laps under 1m 48.5s, while Rossi's best was only a 1m 48.673s as he struggled with the rise in temperature.
“When the temperature rises, I am in a bit of trouble with the tyres,” admitted Rossi. “Because in the morning I was able to keep a good rhythm, but in the afternoon I suffer more. I have too much degradation also with the front, but mainly the rear tyre.”
The #46 added: “The problem is that we have to race with the softer [medium compound] tyre, because the hard is too difficult. After some laps it moves a lot and our bike is difficult to control, and you lose time. But the soft, is a bit too soft for me.
“I think more than the riding style it is also my weight. I am quite smooth, but also Jorge is very smooth and it looks like he is able to use the tyre less. In the morning the tyre is okay for me, but in the afternoon it becomes a bit too soft.”
Aragon is the first of five remaining races that will decide the 2015 title, Rossi having taken points off Lorenzo during wet weather at the last two races. Forecasts suggest only a 10% chance of rain on Sunday.
“It is difficult to talk of a strategy for the race," Rossi said. "First of all we have another 20 minutes to try to improve in warm-up and anyway tomorrow is another day. For example, if there is less temperature I think I can be more competitive.
“So we will try to arrive at the race in the best shape and see what happens. For sure at this track it looks like the top three are very strong and I think that Jorge is the strongest. So it can be a difficult race, but we will try to do the maximum.”
Something Rossi did rule out on Saturday was using the new Yamaha winglets in the race, both he and Lorenzo having tried them during practice.
“Unfortunately I am very slow on the straight and we tried everything, also the cowling with the wings, but unfortunately I'm still slow. So I think I will not use them tomorrow,” he said.
Many of the frontrunners were clearly pushing to the limit on Saturday: Marquez falling at the end of qualifying, while Rossi and Lorenzo each ran off-track during FP4.