Upon first listening, Valentino Rossi appeared to be no further along in his adaption to Michelin's 2017 front tyre, after he finished the three free practices sessions at Losail tenth overall.

"We are still quite far and not very strong," he conceded. The time sheets showed 1.098s of difference between him and the front too, as the main area of discomfort - Michelin's softer front tyre suffering from excessive movement on entry - remain.

However, there was progress of sorts. The issues entering the corners which saw him lag a long way behind Maverick Vi?ales subtly changed, leading Rossi to conclude that his crew are beginning to better understand the issue.

It wasn't just that. Vi?ales may be far ahead of the rest, but Rossi believes that if the necessary improvements can be made between now and Sunday's night race, a challenging of the fight for second could be within reach.

"[It is a] Different feeling because I was not so bad in the FP2," said the 38-year old. "Also in the section except for T3, where I suffer a bit too much, I was always in the top five. It was not so bad.

"But in the afternoon [FP3] I suffer even more because of the lack of grip and also the humidity. It was more difficult conditions. Anyway, we tried to make quite a lot of changes because we have to try and always improve the entry to the corner.

"But we are still quite far and not very strong. We have to continue to work. With the soft at the end I had the problem with the sensor so I have to put another under the suspension and I make just one lap. I think I could do a bit better but we have to work.

"About the pace it looks like that Vi?ales is faster. The other ones are similar. If we are able to find the right way to be more comfortable on the entry, to have a better pace and more consistency, it looks like we are not too far.

"Sincerely we [rider and Yamaha] speak a lot. Already we had some different options to try but at the end I have always the movement.

"But compared with yesterday, the problem is always on the entry of the corner but we have some different problems. This is less frustrating because it's like we start to understand it in a different way."

Asked to expand on the issue he is encountering with the new front profile, Rossi admits it is mostly because of preference. Throughout his career, he has always favoured a harder front.

"I always suffer with the new front tyres because the new front tyres have a casing that is a bit softer," he said. "In all my career I always like the front very hard to have a good stability.

"So for this reason I suffer but the tyres are that one so we need to improve, and try to use them in a better way.

"It's not very easy because we try some different solution during this winter but always the problem of the tyre remain. But we need to find the way to improve the feeling with the front."

On whether the unique track conditions in Qatar are playing a part in his struggles, Rossi added, "Here is always quite difficult conditions because of the night, the sand.

"So we hope also that we have the problem here and maybe in other tracks less. Anyway we have to find something, that's for sure."

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