Valentino Rossi was forced to settle for fourth place in Sunday night's Qatar MotoGP season-opener, despite crossing the line just 2.387s from victorious Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

While Rossi and third place Marc Marquez opted for the harder of the rear compounds during Michelin's first race as exclusive tyre supplier, Lorenzo and runner-up Andrea Dovizioso opted for the soft.

Did that determine the outcome of the race? Rossi wasn't sure.

"Unfortunately, I don't have any more than this," began the Italian, who remained in fourth place from lap 6, when Andrea Iannone fell, until lap 22.

"I was strong, but not strong enough to try one attack. I did not have one sector, one braking, one part where I was faster than the guys in front of me. I was always there, but always ten metres behind. This was the problem.

"It's very important to understand the rear tyre choice, because I don't know if with the soft I can be more competitive. Because me and Marquez with the hard, it looks like we suffer a bit more compared to Lorenzo and Dovizioso.

"But this is not sure. Maybe I put the soft and I would have gone slower. Anyway they beat us, we are behind. But we are strong."

Rossi's race time was 4.878s quicker than on his way to victory in 2015, with Lorenzo finally breaking Casey Stoner's 2008 lap record.

"Sincerely, the pace was a surprise," Rossi said. "Because it was a great pace. A very fast race, faster than last year. Nobody expected it. This means that Michelin did a very good job and I think that now, the tyres are a little bit different, but the way to ride the bike is not so different.

"Like with the tyres, with the [new single] electronics we expect more difference, to struggle more. But already with three tests, all the manufacturers improved a lot. And also the electronics are a little bit less, but anyway they work very well.

"I hope for some more fight in the race, because maybe it was better last year, with more overtaking. This year was more one behind the other. But anyway, it's not so bad. It's better to arrive fourth, two-seconds from first, than arrive second or third and be ten seconds behind."

While the top four riders - from Yamaha, Ducati and Honda - were closely matched in terms of race time, the Desmosedicis of Dovizioso and Andrea Iannone led the opening eight laps of the race and again boasted blistering top speed.

Is Ducati a real threat for the championship?

"Why not?" Rossi replied. "They are fast from the beginning to the end, they have very good top speed, like we know, but also in the corners, they are very fast. I think also Iannone, if he didn't crash, can stay there to the end. So I think that also Ducati is very strong."

Round two takes place in Argentina in two weeks' time, a race Rossi won last season.



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