Valentino Rossi will start Sunday's Australian MotoGP from seventh (+0.817s) on the grid.

That's eight places higher than last year's Phillip Island race, when the Italian charged through the field to finish runner-up to Cal Crutchlow.

But unfortunately for Rossi, the improvement in starting position is not matched by race potential and the Movistar Yamaha rider 'needs to find something' for the 27-lap grand prix.

"Last year was a great race. I enjoyed it a lot. But unfortunately today I'm not fast like last year," Rossi said.

"We are not so far, but I'm not strong enough at this moment to make a good race, to fight for the top positions. So we need to find something."

The nine time world champion, who reached the Qualifying 2 pole position shootout after leading Qualifying 1, added:

"I was able to arrive at a quite good lap time early, but after I was too much at the limit in corner entry and wasn't able to improve on the last lap.

"I'm not very happy about the setting of the bike; we have to try to make it better. And also we have to wait and see about the weather. We hope that at 4pm tomorrow it will be good like today and we will try to make a good race."

After a dry Friday, rain had arrived on Saturday morning, ending Rossi's hopes of avoiding Qualifying 1.

"When you are able to pass through Qualifying 1 it can be an advantage, but for me today it was very similar because I did the same lap time in Q1 and Q2. There is also a big risk because if something happens in Qualifying 1 you have to start from 13th.

"In the full wet [this morning] I have a better feeling than before. But after when the track began to dry, looks like we are uncomfortable with the bike. So hoping for good weather. Dry."

Part of Rossi's problem is that the numerous chassis changes made to the M1 this season have left the team short on data in tricky mixed conditions.

"We modify a lot of things. So for sure when you have these mixed conditions it's a bit difficult because we don't have a lot of experience with this type of bike."

There are suspicions that team-mate Maverick Vinales, who qualified in second, has reverted to a bike very similar to that used at February's pre-season Phillip Island test.

"Maverick was very clever because he was behind me and he was able to improve," Rossi said, before hinting at the machine difference. "I think the two bikes are slightly different... Sincerely I don't know."

One of Rossi's priorities is to work on rear tyre consumption, with some riders expected to race the softest option in what are likely to be cold late-afternoon conditions.

"It's a big question for everybody I think because with the softer tyre everybody has better potential, they are faster, but for 27 laps it's critical," Rossi explained. "It will depend very much on the conditions, on the temperature."

Front tyre choice is also far from certain with Rossi hitting issues in qualifying.

"I was a bit too much at the limit with the front. I had the soft front, which helped me in the Q1, but for Q2 was at the limit. Was all damaged. Two or three degrees of temperature makes a big difference!

"Tomorrow it will be very crucial to make the right tyre choice, front and especially rear. We want to have a good bike but also save the rear tyre because the race is long."

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