MotoGP FP4 may have brought about a significant improvement with the feel of his Yamaha M1, but Valentino Rossi is still chasing “two tenths” to conjure up a podium charge at his home grand prix at Misano.

The 39-year old was slightly frustrated to get knocked off the second row late into Saturday afternoon’s Q2 session and end the day with the seventh fastest time. Warm-up provides a chance to fine-tune his settings, however, and Rossi believes as many as seven riders will be engaged in a top three scrap.

Adjustments to bike balance contributed to his improved feeling under heavy braking - a complaint he uttered on Friday -, allowing him to consistently lap within three tenths of a second of team-mate Maverick Viñales in the weekend’s fourth free practice session, a marked improvement on day one’s action.

But the nine-time champion also included a caveat: Rossi is sure he can maintain his pace for 16 laps. For the final nine, however, he is unsure how the M1’s electronics will conserve his rear tyre in what promises to be considerable Italian heat.

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“I did a quite good lap, but it was not a perfect lap,” said Rossi. “I did some mistakes, and it cost me a better position in the qualifying, also because we are all together very, very close. Incredible.

“So starting from the third row will be more complicated for tomorrow, but from the other side, I have a good pace, because this afternoon in the FP4, we improved the balance of the bike, and I have a good feeling with the bike with new tires. And also with used tires, my pace is quite fast.

“It's true that we have another five riders who are very fast, but also I have good pace. So it will be a very difficult race, very tough for everybody, because also here in Misano it's difficult, because you never have time to recover. It's very tricky, a very small track.

“[It] Looks like that to fight for the podium, I need two tenths, so it will be very important to work tonight on all the small details and try to make a small improvement and try to fight for the podium in the race of tomorrow.

“We have to work now, this afternoon, for tomorrow morning. And I improved my situation in braking, because we modified the balance of the bike, and I feel better. We improved a lot the electronics.

“But usually from Saturday to Sunday, with more kilometres on the track, we have more data to understand whether you can do a little bit better, also about the riding style. So for me, to fight for the podium, I need two tenths. If we are able to find that somewhere, we can try.”

So what kind of race does he anticipate? “Difficult to say,” came the response. “But we are all very, very close. Looks like the two Ducatis are very strong, but at the same time, also Maverick, [Marc] Márquez are very strong.

“So we are five, minimum. Also you have Crutchlow, you have Miller who are not so far. Depends. I hope that we can fight close with everybody until the end.”

And can he achieve a first win in front of a home crowd since 2014? “It's a difficult question,” he shrugged. “I don't know. I know that until lap 16, I'm strong. But after that, the race is another eleven laps, so after lap 16, we will see tomorrow.

“Starting from the third row, everything is more difficult, more complicated, especially the first chicane. From the other side, it's true also that anyway, all the guys in front have a good pace, so there is nobody who made one lap and was slow afterwards.

“So we are everybody more or less there. But for sure, starting from the third row will be not fantastic. But we have to try, we have to try to be strong from the start, and especially in the first two laps, and we'll see.”

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