After qualifying on the front row for the first time this year, Stoner had hoped to be fighting for his second 2008 victory - following two tough rounds - but a change in the weather prompted a tyre gamble, which backfired, leaving the Australian helpless to prevent Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi riding into the distance.

"Unfortunately Casey wasn't able to go as well as he did in practice, mainly because of the change in temperature that led us to make a gamble with tyre choice, so even if a podium is a decent result, it is less than we'd hoped for, mostly because of the gap from the lead," said Ducati MotoGP project director Livio Suppo.

Stoner eventually crossed the finish line 15.9secs behind race winner Rossi, also using Bridgestone tyres, and admitted it was a tough pill to swallow.

"I'm disappointed to be honest because I know we could have done better today," he said. "The bike has worked really well in practice and we thought we had the ideal set-up for today but we changed a couple of things and for one reason or another the package just wasn't as good as before.

"I made a good start and I was happy with that but even in the first corner I couldn't get the bike turned, Colin Edwards came past me, and that was the story of the race. As the race wore on my lap times improved but it was too little too late and in any case it wouldn't have been enough for me to stick with the lead guys.

"I'm disappointed this has happened today - not so really for third place which is a good result but for the big gap from the lead. I know we can do much better so we will put this behind us, wipe the slate clean and try to do better next time out," he declared.

Melandri came into the Chinese Grand Prix having failed to finish higher than 11th from his first three Ducati rides, prompting rumours about his future with the team, but recent changes to bike set-up and traction control allowed the former MotoGP race winner to charge from twelfth on the grid to fifth during a 'fun' race.

"This was an important day - I think I did the best race possible and in general fifth place isn't bad," said Marco. "The team have done a great job, we've found a much better balance with the bike and the changes Ducati have made to the traction control allow me to have a much better feel for the engine.

"Things had started to look up yesterday and today we confirmed it. I got a good start, put my rhythm together and was able to get into some decent times. It was good fun and now I finally feel like I can ride my Ducati.

"Filippo [Preziosi] has always worked so hard to help me and now I hope we can continue in this direction. Spirits are high now and I can't wait for the next race," he enthused.

"We're delighted with Marco, who has made an incredible step forward," added Suppo. "I always said that we hadn't lost faith in him and I'm sure his season will start here."