Factory KTM riders Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder will be casting a eye over the data of Iker Lecuona and Danilo Petrucci after being outperformed by the Tech3 duo in qualifying for the Algarve MotoGP.

Competing in his penultimate qualifying session before leaving MotoGP, Lecuona was the only RC16 rider to make it past Q1 on his way to tenth on the grid. Petrucci will start 15th, Oliveira 17th and Binder 19th.

"It looks like Tech3 were able to go a bit faster than us," said home star Oliveira who, just as in April, is yet to get close to his dominant form at the circuit one year ago.

"They have some things different so we’re looking at the possibility of combining a good setting for tomorrow… That’s why we have more bikes on the grid. For them to take ideas from us, for us from them."

"It looks like Iker’s riding extremely well. I don’t think there is much else to it," added Binder. "We’re looking to try and solve problems, maybe looking too deep, rather than just getting on with it."

While the hard front tyre has been changed compared to April, it's still not the same hard as used by Oliveira during his perfect 2020 win.

"I don’t think the [2020] front tyre would solve our problems a lot," he admitted. "The air temperature is cooler. Being this cool I don’t think we could use last year’s spec and the one we have now is harder. It could be a help but it would not solve our problem completely.

"It’s tough, looking at the pole time today, I’ve been as fast as that last year. It’s frustrating as we can’t hit the same marks and each time we come here we are slower. We’re not in a good way and this is what we’re trying to analyse."

Oliveira's on-track difficulties are now mainly related to issues at the rear of the bike.

"We lose a lot of stability out of the corners and waste potential power to the ground so we cannot use the power. The tyre is moving quite a lot. It’s not on rails as it was here in 2020. It’s a different bike. That is true. That opens the window for us to think about what to do. The reality is we don’t have a bike strong enough to challenge for the positions where we want to be challenging."

'Lecuona didn't deserve to leave MotoGP'

Meanwhile, Lecuona's form has intensified the debate over whether KTM was right to drop the 21-year-old in favour of next year's all-new line-up of Moto2 stars Raul Fernandez (21) and Remy Gardner (23).

Despite having two years of MotoGP experience, Lecuona still remains the youngest rider on the MotoGP grid.

And although he hasn't achieved a stand-out result, with a best of sixth place in the wet Austrian race and seventh in the dry at Silverstone, team-mate Petrucci believes he's been the best KTM rider since Austria.

The Italian, whose own grand prix career also ends at Valencia next weekend, even said he told KTM to keep Lecuona if only one of them could stay next year.

"If I had to tell the truth, he [Lecuona] didn't deserve to go out of MotoGP because he's the youngest one of all the grid. He's got some experience [now] and he was completely new last year," Petrucci said.

"I also told the KTM guys in Austria, when they said to us you are not anymore in the team [next year], 'if you have to choose, it's better to continue with Iker' because he's very young and for me he's got big potential.

"And today since FP4 he did really a good step."

The race results may not show it, but Petrucci feels that when factors such as bike spec are taken into account, Lecuona has been riding better than any other KTM competitor since Austria, where Binder took a shock slicks-in-the-rain win.

"I don’t know sincerely what they've got [different parts at the factory team]. I know they have had some updates during the season, our bike is still the same," said Petrucci.

"It's my personal opinion, but for sure since let's say August, the second part of the championship since Austria, of the four KTM riders Iker is the one who is riding better."

"With the material we've got I think we are doing our maximum," Petrucci added. "Sincerely I don’t know what are the [factory team] problems are today, but they are riding much slower compared to last year and April [here]."

But with no alternative MotoGP options, Lecuona has signed to race for Honda in World Superbikes next season.

"I had the opportunity to jump to MotoGP at 19 and I said yes. And I'm still learning, also this year," Lecuona said.

"I have the same bike, everything is the same [as the April Portimao race]. The last race here was really difficult, but now we can work with the medium tyre on the KTM. I know I can fight again for top positions like in the last races. It's true things have happened in those races, but I have the level to fight in front and I want to keep that performance.

"I came to MotoGP in the Covid time, not a lot of different tracks… For me the important thing is not to stay in MotoGP, or Moto2 or World Superbikes. I like to ride the bike, I like to feel like the factory believes in me and gives me all the opportunities or chance."

"Iker's a really good rider and can fight for the championship in Superbikes," Petrucci said. "I don’t know for sure the level of the Honda and everything, but for sure his level is [good enough] for MotoGP and today he showed his level."

Petrucci meanwhile will take on a very different challenge next season in the form of the Dakar Rally.

'The highest price we paid'

One factor cited by Oliveira for KTM's tough season (two wins but only fifth in the constructors' championship) was the factory's loss of concessions, which removed the chance for the race riders to take part in private testing.

"The highest price we paid this season was just that we don’t test things any more outside GPs," Oliveira said. "We just have the Official test days, after races when grip is insanely high, and masks a bit the performance.

"In the past the Official riders could test more. And that [loss] left the job for us to filter and not the engineers or the test riders. On a tight grid you can be at the top very easily or in the back very easily. They are not easy times. But I don’t feel we tried too much, I think we tried what we could."

Arriving at KTM after six seasons with Ducati, where he claimed two victories and ten podiums, Petrucci would seem an ideal candidate to take some of that testing load off the factory riders.

After all, evaluating new parts is a role he previously fulfilled at Ducati, arguably the most complete bike on the grid, with both Pramac and the factory team.

"Yeah! I thought the same, but they almost decided to choose other riders at I think race number six or seven. I tried to bring my experience but they wanted to continue with their knowledge and so for this I have been useless, for them," Petrucci said.

While KTM is able to call upon the vast experience of Dani Pedrosa as its test rider, Petrucci is their only race rider with any knowledge of another brand of MotoGP bike.

However, the 31-year-old felt his larger size saw him sidelined in terms of development input.

"The only thing I said was that, 'if you don’t listen to me [because] I'm just a rider that weighs 15-20kg more, but I have six years' experience with another factory and I was with a factory bike for many years'.

"So I tried to bring that [to KTM] but, it was not possible."

Binder is KTM's top rider in the world championship in seventh (136 points), followed by Oliveira - who has scored just seven points since the summer break - in tenth (92). Lecuona (38) is down in 18th with Petrucci just one point behind in 19th.