From the first moments of Valentino Rossi’s Saturday on track at Valencia he was on the back foot, as a heavy crash in FP3 set the tone for a “very difficult” day, in which he described his feelings as “uncomfortable” aboard Yamaha’s M1.

The 39-year old Italian rarely looked at ease in each of the day’s three MotoGP sessions, with his speed in the dry FP4 and Q1 sessions well below par. In the end, he could only muster a disappointing 16th place in qualifying.

All of which was a contrast to his speed on Friday. Rossi was pleased – and competitive – during Friday’s underwater conditions, and is hopeful that a return of the heavy rain will bring with it a reversal in fortunes.

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“It was a very difficult day for me, very tough,” said Rossi. “After the practice of yesterday I was quite optimistic to be strong because I feel good. But this morning in FP3, which was very important, I was not fast. I tried to push at the beginning but I crashed.

“After that I took the other bike but I didn’t have the pace, enough pace and enough feeling to go in the top ten. So we modify something for the afternoon but at the same time the condition are different and becoming dry.

“But in reality in FP4 and in the afternoon I never had a very good feeling with the bike. I felt uncomfortable. I cannot push and I was quite slow. So for tomorrow I have to start from very behind so I will be out.

“I was in trouble a lot with braking. I never stop. I have front lock and always arrive too fast in the corner…but also in acceleration I don't have a lot of grip so it is very difficult to ride. I try but I was not fast enough.

“Now we will try to improve, we will work to improve our base, our feeling, and after we will wait to see the conditions because the forecast is quite bad for tomorrow.

“Yesterday in water I feel good. It looks like it change a lot here, the quantity. In case of a wet race when you start behind on the first lap it is more difficult because you have a lot of spray, it’s difficult to see.

“But it will depend very much on the pace whether we can be stronger and with a good feeling with the bike. We will try to come back and recover some positions.”

Rossi’s costly crash out of the lead at Sepang – only the fourth occasion he has done so from a MotoGP race – saw him fall back into the grasp of rejuvenated team-mate Maverick Viñales in the championship.

At present just two points separates the pair in Rossi’s favour. And Viñales, today’s pole sitter, has placed great importance on finishing the year as the strongest Yamaha rider, as he bids to stake his claim as team leader for 2019.

What were Rossi’s thoughts on the inter-team battle in the Movistar Yamaha garage? “It will be very difficult because unfortunately for me Maverick is on the pole position,” he said. “We have just two points so it is difficult.

“We have to concentrate and try to find a better way to set the bike and see tomorrow what happens. We also have to wait to see if it is dry or wet and - as always – I hope it is full dry or full wet because half and half is always difficult.”

On the after effects of his hefty morning fall, Rossi added, “I have some pain sometimes in my left shoulder and it is not 100%. The hit was big because I crash from very high.

“I put the ice because I had some pain and took some painkiller but for riding it is not a problem. It is an old, old, old, old injury and usually it is not so bad but if I have a problem then there is some pain.”

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