It had all started so well. In November last year, Andrea Iannone appeared to take to Suzuki's GSX-RR as though he had known it all his life. The chassis was nimble, his times were fast, and Suzuki was speaking as though the colourful Italian could extract more from the machine than predecessor Maverick Vi?ales.

Seven months on, and those optimistic predications were ill founded. Iannone and Suzuki have struggled to acclimatise to one another's strengths. The Italian's poor showing at Barcelona - 16th place, out of the points, and 43 seconds behind race winner Andrea Dovizioso - underlined that.

The recent run of underwhelming results, including two tenths at Le Mans and Mugello, has come as a surprise to Suzuki team boss Davide Brivio, who believed the Italian would prosper, continuing the momentum built up since the factory's return to the premier class.

While Iannone has struggled, Brivio is sure that team-mate Alex Rins' spate of injuries have played a role. The class rookie fractured a bone in his right ankle before the Grand Prix of Argentina, before breaking his left wrist in free practice at the Circuit of the Americas. He hasn't raced since.

Then there is the fact Suzuki can not rely on a satellite team to carry out any development work - a situation that is unlikely to change for 2018. In short, Iannone has had to lead development mostly by himself.

"To be very honest, we didn't expect to take long time," said Brivio, after batting away rumours that Iannone could depart Suzuki prematurely at the end of this season. "Also because we started very well. I will say, after Valencia and the Valencia testing, with Andrea he was really happy about the bike, fantastic. At the time he pointed out that the electronic was an area which we needed to improve - and still we need to improve. We are working also on that.

"Then for the rest, he was quite happy. Then maybe the race is coming and we found some more difficulty. Electronic is one of the areas where Andrea feels also more that we have to improve. Also thinking about this matter, he comes from a bike where probably it's one of the most sophisticated electronics. So, it is true that we are not at that level.

"We are so very young in this game. We need to recover fifteen years of experience. But this is what we are doing. We get additional engineers arrive here from Japan to work on electronic. We have modified slightly our team operation in order to concentrate some guys more on the electronics. We are aware. We are working. I think we're making step by step.

"Of course, as he's correct and he's right, the riders are always very demanding. They want to fix the problem tomorrow, which is correct. That's their job to ask. We are trying to do as soon as we can. I can tell you that the racing department is working very, very hard. I don't know how much time we need, how long it will take, but I don't see why we cannot fix sooner or later. I don't know when.

"I think overall, on top of all these problems we are also suffering the fact that at the end Andrea remains alone as a rider. First of all, we don't have a satellite team. This is one of our maybe weaknesses in this moment. Alex Rins got injured.

"You can see in any other team or any other manufacturer there are a few riders - as far as I can read on what you write... Maybe Yamaha is a little bit struggle with this year's bike, but they realize because they have the Tech 3 racing with the last year bikes. They can compare the data and information. Otherwise it would have been much more difficult probably to understand. Even Honda maybe last year, they distribute a little bit the job. Maybe Cal was tyre testing or something for the factory team. But anyway, the riders can see the other mates and they can learn something.

"Alex is coming back. Of course, we have to kind of restart everything because he only did one race, one serious race - Qatar. Then he got injured and whatever. So, as I say, the situation is difficult but we're working as hard as we can. I think we can improve, for sure. Then in this game, you don't have to rush because you have to do also things correctly."

At Montmel? Suzuki continued testing on Monday and Tuesday, with Rins' replacement rider Sylvain Guintoli continuing as a third rider, alongside the young Spaniard and Iannone, with Tom O'Kane - ex-crew chief to Aleix Espargaro - standing in as the Frenchman's lead engineer.

Guintoli said the factory had brought many 'sexy parts' to test, including different chassis components, in a bid to arrest the current slump.

"This testing has been put together kind of last-minute because having the opportunity to have Sylvain this weekend," said Brivio. "We're very happy about working with Sylvain because he's getting very good feedback. So, we wanted to use him and to make him also testing some parts, some solutions, and get the feedback.

"So, we needed kind of a testing team, but our test team is in Japan. So, we couldn't move all the team here, so what we have done is we got a test bike from Japan. Then Tom is working for Suzuki, so he was available. So, we asked Tom to come here first of all for the race weekend to do the job he's doing.

"Then we asked him to get back as a crew chief for Monday and Tuesday with Sylvain. Then the electronic guy come from Japan, a couple of mechanics... It's kind of a small test team, but it was a good opportunity to continue to work with Sylvain. We are happy to work with him.

"That's why we are testing quite many things, many ideas, geometry. This will be very important after this test to get the kind of situation clear. Put together the best package and go to Assen and see what's happening."

By Neil Morrison

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