Franco Morbidelli was forced into 'defence mode' to salvage eleventh place on his Petronas Yamaha Sepang MotoGP debut, in Qatar.

The Italian paid the price for selecting the soft rear tyre as he dropped back from a high of eighth in the middle stages, but along the way he got to compare his M1 with the Honda RCV.

"I spent a lot of time with the Yamahas, but I also had the chance to see some Hondas and basically we are struggling in the acceleration area, the traction area, and also in top speed," Morbidelli said.

"This is the main thing where we are missing compared to them."

Morbidelli's mentor Valentino Rossi finished as the top Yamaha in sixth place, just 0.6s from victory, with factory team-mate Maverick Vinales in seventh (+2.481s).

The Monster riders opted for medium tyres front and rear, while Morbidelli and rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo went with a medium front-soft rear combination.

"I was feeling very strong in the beginning of the race and I was trying to manage the tyre, I wasn't going at the limit," Morbidelli said.

"I think everybody wasn't pushing a lot [at the start]. But I was able to recover positions quite fast and also, when they started pushing they made '55 low and in the beginning I was making mid '55, quite easily.

"So I'm happy about that. I'm happy about the feeling I have with the bike and everything. We just didn't manage the tyre well. I had to slow down a lot and basically went into defence mode and tried to bring the bike to the end.

"Pity because I was fast also with the medium tyre, but I decided to go with the soft because I was a bit faster and basically it didn't pay off.

"We just have to go to Argentina and see how the level is there."

Quartararo recovered to 16th after stalling on the warm-up lap.

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