Valentino Rossi has stressed the need to continue working on the 2017 Yamaha's pace on used tyres after he finished the first day of MotoGP testing at Phillip Island in second place.
Contemplating the lap times from Wednesday, Rossi was content. Second place thanks to a 1m 29.683s lap – quicker than his best race lap here in '16 and set on a new tyre late into the afternoon - was reason for cheer.
Yet a glance at Marc Marquez's times throughout the day and the Italian soon understood there is work to be done, and had him calling the reigning world champion “the reference”.
“I'm happy because we start quite bad this morning and we suffer a bit too much,” said the Italian, who suffered a frightening front end slide through turn two early into the day.
“I don't have a good feeling with the bike and every time I try to push I don't feel well. In the braking we check the data and the team work well.
“We improve the bike and this afternoon I was more competitive. At the end with the new tyre I did a good lap. Second is OK. A 1m 29.6 for the first day is already not so bad.
“But we have a lot of work to do, especially for the pace with the used tyre. So we hope for good conditions in the next days to continue the work. Also because we need to know the bike better.
“Viñales was very strong in Valencia and in Sepang but if you check deeply the times, Marquez was the faster. He was the faster in Valencia, he was the faster in Malaysia, and was the faster today.
“So I think he is the man to beat, especially in the pace. He's always very constant and he work very much for the race with the used tyre. I think he is the reference.
“Marquez and Honda are superior in the pace with the used tyre. He's always able to make a very good pace, a very good lap time. We have to work from this point of view.”
So Honda's factory riders have been bluffing to an extent and talking down their own chances? “For sure you try always to say a little bit less or more negative because you want to try and make the surprise in Qatar. Me, sincerely, I already know that he is the faster.”
The Italian posted his fastest time of the day on the 76th of 77 laps, while using a new tyre after a day spent working on and assessing Yamaha's new chassis and fairing. Like at Sepang, he refused to go into specifics on where the new frame is superior.
“Tomorrow these [chassis and fairing] are the priorities, especially the frame. I like a lot the new frame but we still haven't decided 100 percent. Tomorrow I will try another time.”