Qatar MotoGP runner-up Andrea Dovizioso says his performance on the factory Ducati GP16 is more reflective of the bike's real capabilities compared to 2015, when he also finished second at the Losail International Circuit.
Dovizioso enjoyed a spell at the front in the annual night race in Doha before he was overhauled by Movistar Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo.
The Italian became embroiled in a thrilling duel with Honda's Marc Marquez for second place but held his own to come out on top, giving Ducati a cause to celebrate after early leader Andrea Iannone crashed out on the sixth lap.
The Desmosedici has a massive top speed advantage on the main straight at the Losail circuit but Dovizioso says the GP16 is a better all round package than last year's bike.
“I feel that [because] we fight for the victory everybody expects me to be fast but this is not right. We have to remember how we finished the season and the feeling wasn't so good,” he said.
“We did a small change in the team and we did a really good job and I am so happy about that, so thank-you to the team and Ducati.
“Step by step we improved the feeling during the test and I knew from Phillip Island that I started to feel really good with the bike. Most of the riders were doing really fast lap times so nobody really expected us to be competitive in the first race, but I think the pace of today is more [genuine] than last year because the bike is better and more balanced, it's not a new bike like last year and I think we know more about this bike,” he added.
“Yes, there are the different rules and we have to wait to a different track to really understand our potential but I feel really good and what I saw in the race, it was really interesting and I understand a lot of important things to try during the next race.”
Dovi traded blows with team-mate Iannone before his unexpected exit as they battled for the lead and later admitted some of the moves had been 'quite aggressive'.
“Quite aggressive, some overtaking, but this is the race. The first part of the race, I didn't push 100 per-cent because nobody knows the limit of the tyre and at the end the tyre was completely destroyed, like [Jorge] Lorenzo,” he said.
“That's why I didn't push in the beginning but I am really happy how I managed the race because it was very difficult to manage the slides, especially on entry and exit, but it's new for everybody so it's the first real test to understand the tyres.
“I think they [Michelin] did a really great job compared to last year because the front tyre becomes better and this is important. I think it is just about how you manage the tyre and both are really good.
“You have to adapt the riding style and the bike and I think we did the race seven seconds faster than we did last year, so they did a great job,” he added.
“The front is different but for example on the last laps of the race I was able to brake quite hard, so that was really good. About the rear…we have less electronics and we use the tyre because to try to go faster and faster, you open a little bit more on maximum angle and I think this for the tyre is not the best.
“In the last laps the tyre dropped a lot, but the lap times were good so it's a really nice mix.”