On Saturday afternoon in Australia it was difficult to escape the feeling that Yamaha's season was unravelling, as Valentino Rossi posted his worst qualifying performance since his return to the Japanese factory in 2013.
Crashing out of the Japanese Grand Prix, incurring a penalty on Friday for exceeding Michelin's recommended number of laps aboard its extra soft front wet and now this – only a second ever appearance in MotoGP Q1 and 15th overall – Rossi's end of season form has quickly tapered off.
To make matters worse, the 37-year old encountered similar issues in the cold, damp conditions, as neither he nor his Yamaha M1 were able to generate heat in the front tyre, leaving him floundering on what was an embarrassing afternoon for the Movistar Yamaha squad.
“It was a very difficult day,” conceded Rossi, facing his lowest grid slot since 2011 at Aragon, when he qualified a dismal 17th aboard a Ducati.
“We suffer a lot. I was never strong, also in the wet, which I didn't expect. Yesterday I was not so bad in the wet. I felt good with the bike and was able to do quite a good lap. But today with the different conditions everything was wrong.
“We did some mistakes with the tyres and everything but the biggest problem is that I was always slow. There was no feeling. It looks like we suffer very much in these conditions, risking a lot. You understand that you're risking a lot but you go very slow so it's frustrating because I'm not able to ride at the limit.
“It's a difficult situation for sure. In the end I have to start from the fourth row and this is a problem for sure. But the bigger problem is that we don't know our potential, our pace.
“We don't know if we're able to be stronger or faster. We have to wait. We'll try to understand what we have to do on the bike and we're waiting for tomorrow and hoping for a bit better conditions.
“At the end we are in a lot of trouble with the front tyre. We are not able to put temperature into the front tyre. Me, Lorenzo, I don't know exactly, but it looks at though in Q2 he don't have the feeling like me.
“On the other side, we have the good performance of [Pol] Espargaro, who is on the front row with the Yamaha. He did quite a good lap time. From that lap we have to try and understand the way to improve.
“We know that we suffer a lot in these conditions but for sure like this it's a lot because we are very, very far. Also, when you ride you feel very slow. When you pass the line you understand that it's true.”
Rossi's issues in the rain came as a surprise considering his strong pace in atrocious conditions on Friday morning.
It appeared the ever-changing conditions in Q1 caught him by surprise, as he only managed one flying lap aboard intermediate tyres toward the end of the 15 minutes.
Still second in the world championship, Rossi was the first to admit he did not foresee the track drying out as quick as it did.
“Yes, to be honest, first of all, in FP4 with the wet I expect to go fast because yesterday I was good. But I was in big trouble with the front and the rear. When I start for Q1 there were eight degrees and a lot of water.
“The programme was to stay out with that bike and try to make the best. But unfortunately it was getting dry very quick. The programme was to finish with the rain but I had to stop and go on the bike with intermediates.
“Unfortunately it was not ready. Maybe with the two intermediates I could improve the lap time but unfortunately it was like this. So also there was this mistake.”
At this stage a year ago Rossi was hardly a picture of happiness and serenity, yet he still conjured the strength for a victory challenge. Looking ahead to Sunday, the Italian is hopeful higher temperatures can reverse his ailing fortunes.
“For me coming here in the winter is already a bad decision. But to make the race two hours later to wait for European television is also very dangerous. We saw a lot of crashes in Moto2. Also, a lot of crashes two years ago.
“So I think it's not a great idea. But we will see. We hope for a bit more temperature tomorrow and we'll try to make a good race.”