Valentino Rossi maintained his third place in Friday practice during the opening Saturday session at the French MotoGP.

But the Italian, like fellow Movistar Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales, slipped down the order in the hotter afternoon sessions and will start Sunday's race in ninth, just behind his team-mate.

"For sure I expected a little bit more from the qualifying because yesterday and also this morning I was quite strong," Rossi said.

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The Doctor felt he could have been two tenths faster, but that would only have put him seventh on the grid.

"In the lap with the soft tyre I don’t ride at the maximum, I did some small mistakes, so I can do better," Rossi said. "I think my potential can be '31.6-'31.7, so I can go two tenths faster. It is not a big difference. The problem is the others are faster.

"We tried different things. Unfortunately I did a mistake in the FP4 and crashed, but anyway my pace is not so bad. Nothing special, but not so bad.

"The problem is we have four, five, six riders with a pace very similar so will be hard. Starting from the third row is always difficult, so it will be important the start and first laps and after we see how much is my pace for the race."

Once again, Rossi and Vinales were left down the order while Monster Yamaha Tech3 Johann Zarco featured at the front of the field, taking pole position for his home race on the satellite M1.

"Zarco was fast today, also in the other races. He rides very well and is also very fast in the race pace," Rossi said. "We don’t know exactly [why], but we know he's faster than us!"