Danilo Petrucci expects an ultra-competitive MotoGP field on his official factory Ducati debut with all his rivals aiming to impress at the opening round which is why he feels it is “like having the world championship in one race”.

The Ducati rider makes hism maiden factory squad bow this weekend in Qatar having stepped up from satellite squad Pramac Racing over the winter.

After a productive winter testing programme, Petrucci anticipates a tough opener with all riders targeting a positive start, with all but two MotoGP teams starting 2019 with different rider line-ups (Monster Yamaha and LCR Honda the unchanged exceptions), and the Italian rider expects bold racing moves to be in action at the Losail International Circuit

“I think the first key will be qualifying because there are a lot of riders that can fight for the podium and so starting on the front two rows will be very important,” Petrucci said. “Then, like always at the first race there is always a lot of expectation like having the world championship in one race.

“I think we are ready, we haven’t got many big problems this winter and the bike is okay. The level of the challenge is growing but I think with Andrea [Dovizioso] we have done a very good winter together, on and off track, so I am more confident compared to last season.”

While Petrucci is keen to gather confidence on his factory Ducati race debut, he feels he can take momentum from his positive winter tests including a strong showing two weeks ago at Losail during the final pre-season test.

The Italian rider also feels he's made key breakthroughs with conserving tyre life over a race distance having struggled due to his larger size and heavier weight, especially in hotter conditions, compared to his MotoGP rivals.

“Since the first run out in Sepang, and also the Valencia and Jerez tests, I have been in the top positions and this makes me more confident regarding my potential,” he said. “It has been a very long winter especially regarding testing because we had a very, very intensive programme.

“At the end of the last test here we found some difficulties especially when the direction of the wind changed but at the end I was the only one to finish the race simulation and I was quite happy with my bike and my feeling.

“At the moment I am better compared to the last year but we still have to understand in very, very hot conditions, for example Austin or Malaysia, but in Malaysia I did a very long run and was better in the second half of the race simulation. This makes me more confident because I knew I have a better bike.

“When you always see your name at the top you think, ‘okay maybe I am not so weak, I am quite fast’, even when you are not pushing too much.

“I really gave my best this winter and this makes me more confident. I know that I have did everything in the right way so I am looking forward to starting the season as I need to race.”