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In all fairness, Nicky has always been relegated as a #2 rider. He came into MotoGP as Valentino's #2 rider. Then #2 to Barros. Then #2 to Biaggi. Then #2 to Pedrosa. Then #2 to Stoner.
See the pattern?! And keep in mind the factory and techs can set up the electronics any way they want to, in addition to chassis/engine upgrades. Basically, it means WHOEVER the factory wants to succeed will succeed and the rest are left trying to do the best they can with whatever they give them (this is why Satellite teams can't compete now like they used to in the 990 days). Back then electronics were simple and much less customizable.
Nicky can't do better than 6th without the FACTORY backing him 100%.