Cal Crutchlow admits he is playing catch up after missing the two preseason tests at the close of 2018, and is “not even close” to working on set-up for the year’s first race after struggling to get comfortable aboard Honda’s ’19 RC213V in Qatar.

The Englishman cut a frustrated figure at the close of Saturday’s testing session – “a terrible day” - as he encountered a variety of issues, namely a vague feeling with the bike’s front end, a strong point of the RC213V’s previous incarnations.

Sunday brought some improvement, but Crutchlow still seemed nonplussed after posting the ninth quickest time, 0.654s back of Alex Rins’ personal best. At points his track time amounted to “riding round in circles, not getting anywhere.”

Not ideal as he continues his return from a serious right ankle injury, sustained during free practice for last year’s Australian Grand Prix.

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“We stopped early, we've got nothing to do,” said Crutchlow. “Riding around in circles, not getting anywhere with what we’ve been testing. But our plan will change tomorrow a little bit, of what we can test and what we'll probably be racing towards, if you get what I mean, in the grand prix weekend.

“That's own main goal and main aim, to make sure that we're ready and get through the materials and stuff that we need to tomorrow. Today was a bit of a strange day because I tested more geometry settings of the bikes, just to see.

“Even yesterday I was testing something quite different to Sepang. But not massively different, just different settings and different ways of working. Because it seems that here we're struggling, all Hondas were struggling a lot yesterday, so we're trying to adjust the base setting of the bike for this circuit.

“It's a special circuit compared to the rest. In Malaysia we had no real problems. I didn't feel comfortable with the front of the bike and here I feel even worse. And I think it shows in the lap time.

“We've been struggling with the lap time. I think we've been struggling with the lap time on the 2019 bike that's for sure, but hopefully tomorrow will be a bit quicker.”

Crutchlow complained of a lack of comfort at Sepang in early February. Yet he was fast (sixth overall) in the Malaysian heat, as well as showing fine consistency on the final day.

There, however, grip was good. It was consistent. Track conditions in the Qatar desert, where wind, dust and sand is a near constant is a different matter. And Crutchlow feels it has shone a spotlight on te current bike’s deficiencies.

That, coupled with Marc Marquez’s injury, and Jorge Lorenzo’s lack of experience with the Honda, mean bike development is not where he feels it should be at this time.

“We had to work on something different today to what we thought we were going to be working on, as in setting wise and the bikes. But that's part of testing and why we are here. We're here to give HRC the feedback to bring the best bike possible at Qatar in two weeks.

“At the moment we're not even close to thinking about the race. In my garage anyway, at the moment. We've got stuff to do, we're very behind on some things that we need to do.

“Malaysia is a special place to test. The grip was very good, I think the problems that we had were a lot less. We didn’t get to see them. Whereas here we see them a lot, lot more.

“But at the moment I don’t have the front feeling with this bike. And it seems not matter which way you chop and change it, still it's not the way that I'm used to.

“Also the others… The problem is Jorge doesn't understand last year's bike. He didn't really ride last year's bike. So he probably thinks it's one thing and me and Marc maybe think it's another. And obviously Taka is on something different as well, that can't really help us in that sense.

“We have what we have and we have to continue to work and I believe that Honda will make us a package to the best of their ability and for us to hopefully be competitive in Qatar. But I think it's going to be work in progress, throughout this season.”

Asked to expand on where the bike’s front end is not to his liking, Crutchlow offered, “In all areas. Going in, in the middle of the corner and on the exit. The front is not what it has been and not what we are used to.”

Watching Crutchlow walk around the paddock, it was easy to forget he is still regaining full fitness after the serious talus bone fracture sustained last October. While his mobility is much improved, the ability to comfortably use the rear brake is still lacking.

“The problem is my feeling with the rear brake pedal is bad but I don’t want to use the thumb brake,” he said. “So my feeling is not superb at the moment. It's still quite slow to move from the peg to the rear brake lever. And I'm wearing a boot that's too big. I'm getting it caught and things like that.

“I use the rear brake a lot. The problem is I don't even feel that my foot is on the rear brake. It used to be on the rear brake probably 70% of the lap, now it's on 95% of the lap and I don't even know because I can't… not feeling too well.”

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