"We don't know Honda's potential. If they are faster than us, same or slower. I think this is the most interesting thing to understand from tomorrow."

Those were the words of Valentino Rossi, speaking about the possibility of using the expected pace of the Ducatis to recover points on MotoGP title leader Marc Marquez in Austria this weekend.

Ducati dominated the recent test at the Red Bull Ring, which is returning to the calendar for the first time since 1997, but Marquez's Repsol Honda team were not present and thus remain the big unknown.

"It is difficult now to understand, it is a big question mark because the factory Hondas were not at the test," Rossi confirmed.

Ducati starting as pre-race favourites also means the stakes are higher than usual for the title contenders - who face greater gains, or losses, should the Italian machines mingle with the factory Honda(s) and Yamahas.

"Yes, this can work only if we are able to arrive in front of the Ducati and put the Ducatis in the middle, between the Yamahas and the Hondas," Rossi said, when asked if the Ducati form could help him close the 59-point gap to Marquez. "But I think it will be difficult."

Rossi was the top non-Ducati at the recent Austria test, but only fifth quickest and almost one-second from the top at a track that rewards brute mechanical force.

Rossi's team-mate and reigning champion Lorenzo, currently second in the standings but still 48 points adrift, declared: "It's more interesting for the championship to have another brand with favourable tracks for them; not only Yamaha or Honda tracks, but now also a Ducati track.

"If Marc finishes fourth of fifth and I can win or finish second - the more riders that stay in front of him the better it is for the championship. But it's difficult that this happens, so I have to concentrate on my performance and try to be as fast as possible and like that I can be first, second or third and get a lot of points."

Lorenzo is joining Ducati next season.