2018 is a high-stakes season for Danilo Petrucci, who has the best chance of his MotoGP career but also the biggest pressure.

Despite four podiums last season, the Italian knows this will be his final year at the Pramac team.

But Petrucci still has a shot at a place in the official Ducati squad, has the same machinery as the riders he will need to outpace - Andrea Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo - and delivered a very impressive race simulation during the final test at the same Losail circuit where this weekend's race is held.

If anything, the thoroughness of Petrucci's preparations mean he might have shown his hand a little early.

"I'm happy because I was the only one to finish a [full] race simulation," he said. "Maybe I showed my cards first, but at least I showed I can be there and it was very important to do the race simulation to see if everything works. Not only on the physical condition [after losing weight], but on my riding style.

"I truly want to use the soft tyres front and rear and the lap time was quite constant.

"Maybe one or two riders can do 1m 55.0s even on the last lap. I hope not, for sure! But I think there are ten riders that can fight for the podium for half of the race - maybe all the race.

"This year I don't know why, maybe the rider level has become higher and higher, but I remember for example in Thailand on the second day there were [14] riders within one second. Here there were twelve riders in a second, on a two-minute track.

"So it's difficult to make the difference, especially because I'm one of the few riders at the front who never have won a race in this championship. And I never fight for the title so for me all the names around me on the timesheet are quite heavy.

"But this year for me is the most important [of my career] and I have to fight for something big for next year.

"Pramac gave me a big opportunity. I have the best bike I've ever ridden. So every year became more difficult but now we are talking about fighting for first position or the top five and not for earning some points. So, I hope every year becomes difficult!"

Petrucci was speaking in the Losail paddock just before Valentino Rossi was announced as the latest factory team rider to sign a new contract for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, after Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales and Honda's reigning world champion Marc Marquez.

"In MotoGP some riders sign the contract already before the championship starts. So this put us a lot of pressure because we have a short time for our career and this year is more heavy because everyone is without contract. "

Asked how he feels and deals with the pressure, Petrucci explained: "At least it's only a bike race. But it's a very hard and difficult bike race. Regarding myself it's always a fight inside me telling always, 'it's what you've dreamed of all your life' and on the other side 'why are you always tired and struggling to sleep at night!'"

The other anomaly for a MotoGP rider is the ratio of training compared with actual time on the bike.

"We train every week [throughout the year] and we don't go on the bike. It's like the football player if they only got to use the ball on Sunday for the match.

"I think this is the most difficult thing – that you never ride the bike! In a MotoGP career you ride the bike maybe 3-4% of the time! It's quite strange."