Valentino Rossi returned to the scene of his 'worst Yamaha test' as Friday practice got underway for the Australian MotoGP.

The Italian had been twelfth fastest (+0.921s) on combined times at the same Phillip Island circuit in February, a position he repeated on day one of the grand prix weekend.

"For me, the test in Phillip Island in February with the 2017 bike was one of the worst tests in my career with Yamaha," said Rossi, speaking in the paddock on Friday evening.

"It was very frustrating, I was very slow and the feeling with the bike was very bad.

"Today the situation, the position, is not fantastic but I feel a lot better [than the test]. I had a good pace with the medium tyre and we worked a lot on the bike. At the end when I put the soft rear tyre we wanted to try to make another [set-up] test, but unfortunately it didn't work.

"I didn't feel good so I wasn't able to improve my time, but already with the first setting I think that I can go faster if I put the softer tyre. We concentrated more on the medium tyre today, but it looks like the soft has a bigger potential and can be an option for the race.

"Now tomorrow morning will be very, very crucial because it's very important to try to be inside the top ten and go directly into Qualifying 2. So we hope for dry conditions and good weather."

Rossi lapped 0.752s from surprise fastest man Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and was the third best Yamaha after factory team-mate Maverick Vinales (+0.198, fifth) and Tech 3's Johann Zarco (+0.442s, eighth).

Where does he need to improve on Saturday?

"I don't have a very good balance like I want, so I'm not so fast in the fast corners," Rossi replied. "I tried, but I don't have the feeling, especially on the front. So we need to improve that."

Rossi added that while it will be "difficult" to win on Sunday, "we are not so far and for sure we won’t give up and will try the maximum. I feel not so bad with the bike, so if I'm able to fix some corners we can improve."

Phillip Island is Rossi's third event since returning from a broken leg, an injury that effectively sunk his title hopes.

With the championship now mathematically impossible for the #46, would he like Yamaha to use the remaining rounds to work on the bike for next year?

"For us nothing has changed because we continue to work and I continue to say what I think on the bike," Rossi said. "But sincerely we don't have new stuff for try.

"In Yamaha they understand that at the moment it's difficult, so they already work. But I don't know if we can see something new at the end of this season or at the February test."

With three rounds remaining, Rossi is fifth in the world championship now just two points from Dani Pedrosa.

Rain showers are forecast for both Saturday and Sunday.

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