Cal Crutchlow was more than content to post the fourth fastest lap time in MotoGP qualifying, as the Englishman put some discomfort with his left hand to one side to maintain his competitive edge at Misano.

The Englishman was counting the cost of two mistakes on his fastest lap in qualifying around the tight, pokey circuit on the Adriatic coast while following title leader Marc Marquez, which, he feels, lost him just over three tenths of a second.

Still, Crutchlow, who needed surgery on his left index finger after a domestic accident in the week leading up to this event, was pleased to be troubling the top end of the leader board. His pace over free practice was such that a push for the top five is in his sights on Sunday.

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“I’m happy with my lap,” he said. “I made two big mistakes simply because I was following Marc. He was a little bit ahead, which I wanted him to be. Where I was losing was at two corners, and I braked where he braked but ran wide at the two corners.

“But he also ran wide at those corners. At turn four we lost two tenths and at turn seven I lost 0.15s. It would have been a good lap for sure but trying to put these laps together on our bike is… You saw Marc, he put in a good run and he didn’t finish the lap. It’s easily done.

“I feel good and competitive. Honestly speaking, do I think we’ve got the pace for a podium? Probably not. I think we have pace for just after the podium. Maybe we can be with Jorge. We have the same sort of pace as Jorge.

“We have to be happy enough because it’s not been an easy weekend and lead up to the weekend and we’ve been competitive in most of the sessions so far. Today I felt quite good on the bike and it showed in qualifying.”

On Friday Crutchlow had said the finger was not causing him a great amount of pain. However, as the tendon in the finger was cut in the accident, it cannot be bent, meaning the Englishman is not gripping the handlebars in a natural way.

“Riding, [was more comfortable] yes because I was more used to it. The problem was my hands are hurting because I’m holding the bars wrong. After the session my finger hurts, when the adrenaline wears off.

“I do think it’s slowing me down because I’m not holding the bars properly but I also don’t think that if I didn’t have the injury, I’d be three positions higher. I’m not stupid. Realistically, we’d be faster but still not be fastest.

“It’s a long race here. It’s a s**t fight. It’s not a nice circuit to ride for 28 laps. It was nice on some bikes. I’m not saying it’s not nice on our bike, but it’s difficult. It’s difficult to be consistent.”

On the possibility of racing in the rain on Sunday, Crutchlow added, “It’s going to make my life difficult. It’ll be more difficult to control the bike with one finger less on the handlebar. I wish it wouldn’t rain because I feel really good in the dry. I feel we have the pace for the top five. I think it’s going to rain, sure. How much? I don’t know.

Engaging the clutch for the start procedure could also be problematic. “Yesterday I made two disastrous starts,” Crutchlow explained. “This morning I made an average start. This afternoon I made two rockets in a row. I normally do it with three fingers but today I’ve don’t it with these two [middle and ring finger].

“It’s easier to make a mistake. I don’t have the same feeling to slip it. You get a little wheelie and you want to start to slip it. I’m not really looking forward too much to the weather. In the rain the heavier riders will win, or have the most chance. The surface water sits so much that I think that’s what’ll happen.”

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I'm thinking that on race pace, and his consistency, Crutchlow should be aiming for the podium. Or have Honda given him the,"Back up Marquez," talk yet?