But it just emphasises how badly technical updates are needed to counter the lack of power and grip produced by the current Yamaha M1, a bike that appears to have changed little over last year’s machine.

Admitting he doesn’t know when new parts might arrive, Quartararo added: “We have to [get updates] because, imagine, I was happy to finish P7 in Austin. It sounds ridiculous: world champion last year and now happy to finish in that position. We need to have new things.”

Quartararo was lacking over 13km/h in top speed at COTA, with only team-mate Franco Morbidelli slower in a straight line over the weekend.

But the young Frenchman - who arrives at this weekend’s Portimao round fifth in the world championship, ten places clear of the next best Yamaha - feels he’s riding better than ever and learning from the ‘tough times’.

“To be honest, coming from the last race I feel that I am riding at my best. When you have this trouble that the bike is not going well, I would say, because that’s my feeling, you try to do your best by yourself,” Quartararo said.

“In the first three races I was very frustrated by the speed and in Austin I said ‘look, this is what we have, I cannot do anything, so let’s focus on the riding’ and I was making some good moves.

“I went for it and in tough times you learn a lot more and in Austin I learned a lot more than when I won some races. When you win then things are going well but when you have races like this you learn a lot.”

14th, 1st and then a DNF during his previous Portimao visits means Quartararo isn’t sure what to expect from this weekend, where rain is also predicted on Friday, but views the following Jerez and Le Mans rounds as podium-or-bust in terms of his title chances.

“Here is 50-50 for us,” Quartararo said of Portimao. “But Jerez and Le Mans are important tracks for us. We cannot make mistakes. If we want to fight for the championship then mistakes are not allowed so on those kinds of tracks it is podium, or it will be very difficult to arrive in a good position at the end of the year.”

Nonetheless, with only one top-six finish so far this year, a wet second place in Mandalika, Quartararo is ‘impressed’ by his current ranking for the start of the European season.

“I’m still impressed because I made a podium and I’ve been P9, P8, P7 and I’m still 5th in the championship and not so far after four races,” he said.

“To be honest Argentina and Austin were really tough. If you look at the pace we are always fast because we are alone and nobody is with you but in the race people pass you and you are blocked. You cannot make your own riding style. Let’s see on these [upcoming] tracks.”

Key to Quartararo’s hopes will be a strong qualifying, to avoid being stuck behind bikes with lower corner speed but better straight-line performance.

“My plan is to push like hell to qualify the best. I don’t have another plan better than this,” he said.

Quartararo: Bastianini a serious title contender

Leading the world championship standings into Portimao is Gresini Ducati’s Enea Bastianini, who has taken two victories in the opening four rounds.

Bastianini might be a satellite rider on year-old machinery, but Quartararo, currently 17-points behind Bastianini, said he’s taking the young Italian “really seriously” in terms of the world championship.

“Because last year he was super-fast but the qualifying was bad, I would say. This year he is qualifying good and he is super-fast on the pace,” Quartararo explained.

“He is on the only Ducati rider to ride ‘this’ way. He is on the Soft front tyre and for sure his bike is moving a lot but he likes it. It’s a different riding style to the others but we must take it seriously because the way he rides is amazing.

“For me [Bastianini] is not really a big surprise,” Quartararo added. “Last year what was missing was the consistency and for a rookie that is normal but you saw the way he rode in Misano – it is his track and he is always fast there – but the way was already super-good.

“He has the reputation of being a guy that takes care of the tyres and always ends super-fast. I was not expecting him to be the best of Ducati but he has made a big step. In Austin I knew he was going to win because you could see the confidence he has in himself and on the bike. You can see it from outside.

"I am surprised, but only half-surprised I would say."