Alvaro Bautista says the different gearchange feeling on the factory Ducati GP18 triggered his heavy crash in qualifying which relegated him to 12th place to continue his tricky stand-in opportunity at Phillip Island.

The Spanish rider has endured a tough Ducati GP18 debut, stepping in for the injured Jorge Lorenzo at the factory squad, after a sensor issue curtailed his FP1 running which was followed by a crash in FP2.

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After a productive final two practice sessions, Bautista bolted through Q1 by topping the times but in the intermittent rain conditions which greeted Q2 he fell early on without setting a competitive lap time.

Bautista put the off down to a mistake changing gear under braking which threw him down but remains optimistic of a fightback in the race.

“Overall today was better than yesterday, even though I had a really bad crash after a few laps in Q2,” Bautista said. “I’m still not used to the gearchange of the GP18, a wrong gear went in when I was braking and the bike didn’t stop. I wasn’t able to prevent the crash but I’m OK, just a few scrapes on my back.

“I believe we’re working well and even though the weather conditions with the wind and the cold are not the best, we’ve made a good step forward.

“In Q1 I felt good on the bike and I lapped quickly, improving lap after lap. Tomorrow it’ll be important to get a good start because the first few laps on this circuit are fundamental and then during the race, we’ll have to administer the tyre wear, which will be another key factor in getting a good result.”

Bautista will return to regular squad Angel Nieto Ducati and his more familiar GP17 next weekend for the Malaysian MotoGP with Lorenzo set to return to action following minor surgery.

Ducati has already placed Michele Pirro on standby in case Lorenzo is unfit to ride at Sepang, while the Italian rider was unavailable for the Phillip Island round due to prior testing commitments on Ducati’s 2019 MotoGP bike at Valencia.