Valentino Rossi fears a tough race in roasting hot temperatures in Sunday's Catalunya MotoGP, which he will start from a lowly 13th.

Yamaha have been paying the price for missing last month's private test at the Barcelona circuit, struggling for grip at the notoriously slippery and bumpy circuit - an issue that seems to be getting worse with the heat.

Ninth on Friday, Rossi sunk to 15th in FP3 - when all four Yamahas failed to make the top ten for direct Qualifying 2 access. However the Italian was a competitive fifth, a fraction away from all but Dani Pedrosa, on race tyres in FP4.

The problem is he can't make the medium rear tyre do more than half-a-dozen laps before a big drop in pace, while the hard tyre is slow from the off.

"It was a difficult day for sure. Sincerely, I expect to struggle less," began Rossi, speaking in the paddock on Saturday afternoon. "Because yesterday I wasn't fantastic, but I had a quite good feeling with the bike and we have to do some modify. But from this morning looks like the asphalt today provides less grip and for us it was a big problem.

"We struggled a lot this morning and we have a lot of problem with the tyres especially. Looks like we are not able to make the tyre work in the right way. With all the tyres it's difficult, some tyres make more laps but have less grip, so we don't have the right choice front and rear.

"But anyway, I was also a bit unlucky because I didn't pass into Qualifying 2 just for 0.002s and starting from 13th will be very, very hard tomorrow. Very tough also because the pace is not fantastic. But it's Saturday, we still have the warm-up to try something and we have to try to improve, minimum, a bit the pace to recover positions in the race."

Valentino Rossi run in FP4 (hard front, medium rear):
1. 1m 47.008
2. 1m 46.089
3. 1m 46.443
4. 1m 46.340
5. 1m 46.372
6. 1m 47.115
7. 1m 48.359

Pressed on his competitive lap time in final practice, when he was just 0.1s from all but Dani Pedrosa (who will start on pole), Rossi explained: "Our pace is nothing fantastic but I's not too bad and have a lot of riders similar, except Pedrosa that is faster.

"The problem is that with the medium tyre we are not so bad for six laps. But the race is 25. With the hard tyre we are never good. So the choice is make 5 laps and then slow down or make all the race slow! We have to decide!

"If it's more hot tomorrow, it's more difficult. We see, like in Jerez also, in the morning it is a bit more easy. In the afternoon when the track temperature goes to 50 degrees it's more difficult. Tomorrow will be tough for everyone.

"Everybody crash a lot this weekend because the asphalt has low grip and, for some reason, today less than yesterday. But at the same time we have to use hard tyres to arrive at the end [of the race].

"So sincerely to ride the bike is very difficult, it's like a nightmare because also if you go slow everything is not natural. And every time you enter a corner you feel very much on the limit."

Yet Rossi won in the same kind of slippery conditions at both Jerez and Catalunya last season.

"For us change very much the bike," Rossi said. "Looks like in this condition, when the grip level is very low, the bike of last year makes the tyre work in a better way.

"And also the [2016] bike is more easy to ride in the corner, in the entry. Everything happens more naturally. So also for this reason the tyre stress is less and was a lot more easy to bring at the limit."

You won't go back to last year's bike?

"I think no."

Rossi starts Sunday's race holding third in the world championship, 30-points from team-mate Maverick Vinales. The young Spaniard did make Qualifying 2, but could only manage ninth on the grid and was a lowly 15th in 'race spec' during FP4.

By Peter McLaren

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