Saturday proved to be a trying day for each of MotoGP's British contingent as Cal Crutchlow was the only rider to breach the top-ten in qualifying at Jerez.
Both Bradley Smith (14th) and Scott Redding (17th) were further down the order, as they struggled to get any kind of feel from the Michelin tyres and a track surface that was offering next to no grip.
Changes to Crutchlow's set-up in qualifying left his Honda RC213V feeling “flat” and the Englishman was relatively satisfied to post a lap that was just 0.15s slower than Repsol factory man Dani Pedrosa.
“We had something in the bike that I shouldn't have used in the qualifying,” said Crutchlow. “In the straights the bike was really flat. Don't get me wrong, if we had that we wouldn't have suddenly jumped to the third row. It would have been a help. One tenth is going to put you five spaces forward. There are seven guys within two tenths.
“We went one way with the bike, then went the opposite way. In qualifying I was able to do a good enough job. 0.15s behind Dani at a circuit where he's had some fantastic results… But it's going to be a big battle in the race for sure. Maybe cruising around you could finish top five. It's going to be a bit of a lottery again but we'll see.
“We don't have very good grip and with this construction of tyres it's difficult to find it. We're using the rear brake like you wouldn't believe to try and get some load into the rear of the bike push the rear tyre into the floor. In corner entry we have 60 degrees lean angle and the rear brake on trying to search for grip.”
For Smith, a place outside the top twelve was a continuation of his difficult start to 2016, as repeated set-up changes failed to yield results.
“It's a difficult start to the season,” said Smith, who will start Sunday's race from the fifth row. “I can't do more than I'm doing. The team is doing the best they can and we're still missing. It's not a lot – half a second. Unfortunately that's night and day. The good thing is through all of this I'm improving my riding style even more.
“We're doing all the right things so we know when the time comes and the Yamaha is working I've improved again as a rider. It makes you look at all the small details but that's not improving the results. We've hit a limit with the bike. We tried a bunch of things in FP4 but that didn't work so we ended up back at the setting we had in FP3. We don't actually make anything better. We're trying and we haven't made it better. On the TV it looks as though I'm all over the place and that's how it is.
“With these Michelins you're never far away. That sweet spot is difficult to find. Once you find it, it seems to work. Last year you were missing something, it was in one or two corners. This year if you're missing something it's the whole lap. The lap time disappears. It's such minute amounts on the data but it all disappears. We compare with Pol and it's not like, 'Fix turn three, seven, nine and you'll be close.' It's more, 'You have to fix everything and then all those little things will add up.' If you sort everything up the lap time will come. It's not something you creep up on.”
One man with few positives to take from the weekend as a whole was Scott Redding, whose 17th place on the grid was well below the standard he has set until now in 2016.
“As the track temperature gets hotter the feeling gets worse. At the moment there's no real, clear direction that we can go in. we've tried quite a lot. Normally [in past rounds] we've tried two or three different things whereas this weekend it's been eight to ten. It's hard enough to put a set-up together without having to try so many things.
“This morning we were confused with which tyre to go with. The soft had no grip, the hard was better but then we changed the bike. To be honest I have no idea what to do tomorrow. Qualifying was a disaster and it was one of those days.
“All we did was reinvent the problem. Nothing is giving us positive feedback. We need to stay positive. This is the first time that I've come in and said, 'I have no idea. I have no idea where to improve or where to go.' We tried [changing] the electronics. We stopped the spin but we couldn't improve the lap time. Either you reduce the spin with electronics and you don't go forward or you go forward and destroy the tyre.
“[The aim is to] Finish the race and try to be as consistent as possible throughout the race and try not to drop off towards the end.”