Race day gains have carried Valentino Rossi from the third and fourth row on the grid to podium finishes in the opening MotoGP rounds, putting him behind only unbeaten Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales heading into Austin.

But such results would be easier for The Doctor to achieve if front-end handling difficulties could be improved much earlier in the weekend.

"The winter tests were not fantastic and we continued to suffer also during practice. But two good races, two times on the podium and good points for the championship. So a good start," Rossi declared on Thursday in Austin.

"But after Qatar I expected to arrive in Argentina and be faster during practice, but I struggled too much. So we have to try to understand if what we learned about the bike in Argentina can help us also on Friday and Saturday here."

Rossi effectively lost touch with the 2016 title chase when he fell at Austin one year ago. It was an especially disappointing result after a strong performance in warm-up, at a circuit dominated by Marc Marquez and Honda since 2013.

"Marquez is always very, very strong at this track from the first time we test here in 2013. But we have to concentrate on our self. For me this track is not fantastic for results, but last year and also 2015 I was quite competitive. Unfortunately last year I did a mistake and crashed. But I had good speed so we have to try to continue like this."

This season it has been Marquez who made a costly early mistake, falling from the lead in Argentina. Sitting beside the Honda rider, Rossi emphasised the importance of early season points.

"At the beginning of the season it is always very important take points, also because after this race finally we come back to Europe, a different atmosphere and especially a lot of tracks I love. So it is important to take points and arrive on the podium."

An alternative stiffer front tyre construction, planned for testing last time in Argentina but ultimately never used, will not be on offer this weekend.

Rossi believes such a tyre could help reduce the front-end movement he is struggling with on corner entry. But having felt the same feeling on wet tyres at Termas de Rio Hondo, the #46 is increasingly focussed on solving the problem through set-up.

"For sure in Argentina we were able to learn a lot from the bike, especially also using the bike in the wet is interesting," Rossi said. "So I think that we can start from a better base here. But I thought the same after the race in Qatar and it was not true.

"Now we just wait for tomorrow morning."

By Peter McLaren

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