At a time when theories to explain the gulf in performance between Casey Stoner and team-mate Marco Melandri are flying wildly, Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo has moved to eliminate one avenue of speculation - by stating that there is 'no doubting' the Italian's talent.

After a troubled winter, in which he has rarely looked comfortable, Melandri finished his first race as a factory Ducati rider in eleventh - 44secs behind race winner Stoner - having qualified just 16th and been 18th and last during the pre-race warm-up.

"We're expecting an improved performance from Marco [this weekend at Jerez], who we think learnt a lot in the first race," said Suppo. "There is no doubting his talent - it is only three races since the penultimate round of 2007 at Sepang when he produced an outstanding display to finish second behind Casey. Now, with the improved feeling he found with the Desmosedici during the race in Qatar, I'm sure the results will start to come for him too."

Despite his recent form, the simplistic 'Melandri isn't quick enough' argument certainly seems to hold little weight - after all, Marco is a former MotoGP World Championship runner-up and five-times premier-class grand prix winner on a satellite Honda - so what exactly is his problem?

It is known that Melandri's style (like Capirossi before him) doesn't suit Stoner's world championship winning set-up, but it is also thought that the Desmosedici has a relatively narrow 'operating band' - in terms of extracting its maximum performance - resulting in any changes away from the 'Stoner set-up' being somewhat risky.

That theory may or may not be true, but Melandri certainly intends to do far less experimentation this weekend.

"Jerez is one of the circuits where we did a lot of testing in the winter and where we tried a lot of different set-up solutions," he said. "It is quite a demanding circuit but for me the first race was very important to understand certain things, more than we'd managed during the tests.

"I definitely have to decide on a direction during practice and follow it without making too many modifications so that we're ready when the moment arrives to put in a qualifying tyre. Starting closer to the front gives you the chance to be fast from the first laps, something we couldn't do in Qatar.

"The first race certainly wasn't at the level we want to be at but there were positives to take out of it, especially in the second half, so we have to keep working because we can and must improve," he admitted.