Valentino Rossi was forced into an admission that Sunday’s MotoGP race at Jerez could result in a “fight” for “not a great position” after his search for grip in high temperatures came up short in qualifying.

The nine-time world champion described the first day of free practice as “difficult,” especially in the afternoon as track temperatures rose, leaving the Movistar Yamaha skating around the track with excessive spin.

It was a shortcoming shared by his frustrated team-mate Maverick Viñales, and while Tech 3 Yamaha’s Johann Zarco was able to salvage a fine front row starting berth in the closing moments of qualifying, Rossi was stranded on the third row, his tenth fastest time one place higher than Viñales.

“Today was also difficult,” he said. “More or less the feeling is the same as yesterday. In the morning with less temperatures we are more strong with better pace, nothing fantastic but closer to the top guys.

“Unfortunately in the afternoon when the temperature goes up I suffer a lot and everything becomes more difficult and the gap becomes bigger. It is a difficult position for the start. It’s true I am not that far from the guy in front but the race will be hard because I am not strong with [race] pace, especially in the hot.

“We need to work from today to tomorrow. We worked a lot [today] and changed many things and tried a different balance. I also tried the hard tyres but unfortunately nothing gave us the right speed to fight with the top guys. It will be a hard race but we have to try the maximum and make the best as possible.”

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Pressed to explain the origins of the issues with grip, Rossi was forced to trot out that age-old line about a lack of electronics development on the M1, those recent developments that carried him and Viñales toward the front in Austin apparently a thing of the past.

“In the morning we lose in acceleration and we cannot exit the corner fast enough,” he explained. “It can be mechanical a little bit. In the team we have different ideas but for me it is more from the electronics side.

“It looks like the other factories can make a bigger step. In the hot the tyres – front and rear – are too soft. I have a lot of movement. We tried the hard but I lost too much grip. At the moment we don't have the answer.”

Is there a consolation that he has been in this situation many times before, and managed to salvage a result? “We will try," he said, before the admission.

“To understand the best setting but it is difficult because it looks like the temperature is high like today. With more than 40 degrees on the ground it will not be easy. There are a lot of guys that are fast and maybe we have to fight a lot for not a great position.”

And what exactly is Zarco’s secret to place on the front row here? “In general it looks like he stresses the tyre less,” said Rossi. “It is also about size, he is lighter and smaller. It is interesting because everyone has a different style. I’m not able to improve enough in the afternoon to make a good qualifying.”

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