After topping the opening practice session of the new MotoGP season, Valentino Rossi’s start to 2019 hit the buffers in the second session as he dropped to 17th place on the times struggling with a front tyre issue.

Rossi claimed top spot in FP1 ahead of the MotoGP opener in Qatar, edging out Repsol Honda duo Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez, but then failed to better his opening practice time in FP2 which saw him slide down the order as the rest of the field stepped up the pace.

The Monster Yamaha rider says he made no major setup changes between the two sessions but suffered front tyre wear issues throughout FP2, run at the same time as Sunday’s race, which left him out of options for a late time attack.

As a result, Rossi dropped to 17th on the overall times and looks set to miss out on an automatic Q2 qualifying slot unless he can climb into the top 10 in FP3.

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“It is a strange day because I think we are not too bad this morning but we are not as bad as this afternoon,” Rossi reflected. “This afternoon we didn’t modify much on the bike but I had a lot of problem with the front tyres because we were out of balance and I suffered very much. I was slow.

“At the end, the track had a lot of grip so the top guys improved and the lap time is the record now so that is very fast but unfortunately it was a difficult practice for me.

“The bigger problem is I am out in Q1 for qualifying and tomorrow in FP3 maybe the conditions will be hard to improve on this lap time so it will be hard to enter into Q2 but we have to find a way to be faster.

“With 18 riders in one second it is like in MotoGP, if you don’t push at the maximum it is very easy to go out of the top 15. We have to find a way to improve tomorrow to have a good pace.

“The problem was we destroyed the front tyre which we didn’t expect. With these numbers of tyres if you fuck one tyre it is over.”

Rossi explained he felt serious degradation using the favoured medium compound front tyre after just five laps during a race run in FP2, forcing the Italian rider to eat up his tyre allocation without improving his outright lap pace.

Rossi says Losail’s long sweeping right-hand corners were where he was suffered with the problem the most with his factory Yamaha, while he also feels it points to a narrow operating window he currently has with his MotoGP machine following an intensive winter testing programme to cure its 2018 weaknesses focused on grip and traction under acceleration.

“I destroyed it on the right, because you have it here a lot of the right [side of the tyre],” he said. “I start to feel the vibration and I say ‘fuck’.

“It is a shame because we were optimisitic after this morning to try with our pace which was better. It is very difficult to understand what has happened. It looks like the line is narrow for us to go fast.”

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