Johann Zarco says he’s lucky to hold on to a provisional automatic spot for the pole position shootout after struggling to improve his bike set up on Friday practice ahead of the Argentina MotoGP having slipped to ninth on the combined times.

The Tech3 Yamaha rider conceded he opted for the wrong set-up path with his YZR-M1 during FP2 at Termas de Rio Hondo and after intermittent rain truncated the dry track time the French rider could only manage 14th place on the afternoon session times.

Zarco’s FP1 time was enough to keep him inside the top ten in ninth, and a provisional place in qualifying two, but concedes he is eager to uncover a stronger set-up with his Yamaha so he can fight for the podium in Argentina.

“In FP2 we didn’t find the right direction to work so it made the situation more difficult,” Zarco said. “I feel lucky to still be in the top 10, in case of rain tomorrow it is always important.

“What I want and what I feel to improve to fight for podiums and victories is why it is complicated to put my finger on it and then work on the set up.

“Conditions are not helping but when I see what Marc [Marquez] did at the end of the session it really means we can use the track and it makes me confident that with a few things to find from the team then the pace will come. Being in the top 10 is the main thing and if it rains tomorrow then maybe Sunday will be a question mark for us. If it is dry I believe we can find a good set up.”

Zarco says he is only using data and references from the pre-season tests and the Qatar MotoGP race having adapted his riding style and developments on his Tech3 Yamaha in Argentina but isn't concerned about his lack of reference impacting his speed.

“Because my riding style has changed and I am riding the bike differently compared to a year ago we have a low amount of experience,” he said. “We are using our data from the last race and the last test. This is the bike I like and the tyres.

“We have four tyres and three tyres we know the construction of there is just one tyre that we did not try and in any case it could be good to try but we don’t think we have the solution with this new compound.”

Rookie team-mate Hafizh Syahrin was an impressive eleventh in FP1, but slipped to 16th in the quicker afternoon session after pushing too hard.

"This morning I was quite surprised because I was in the top ten many times. In the end it was eleventh, very close, but I knew in the second practice everybody would go more fast.

"I tried to improve my time as well, but I think I pushed too much. With the Yamaha you need to ride calm and relaxed, but I really wanted it because the first practice gave me a lot of motivation to push and I don’t think it worked so well.

"In the end I understand and the team is quite happy with my result today. I need to have one step forward tomorrow."

Asked in which areas of the track he needs to improve, the Malaysian replied:

"First and fourth sector I was quite fast, but in the second sector I still have a problem to pick up the bike. I think I need to change my riding style. The team is trying to help me to improve in sector two and I'll try tomorrow.

"I still need to learn many things on the bike such as the electronics, for example this track has a lot of high speed and you need to save the tyre for the wheel spin."