Valentino Rossi delivered an upbeat take on his performance at Jerez in the wake of fighting through to sixth place, explaining he was “more comfortable” and “fast” when compared to the 2018 outing, factors that bode well for the season ahead.

Sunday represented a decent turnaround for the 40-year old, who was “quite desperate” on Friday, when a litany of issues prevented him from setting a time worthy of a place in the top 15.

Rather than any set-up concerns he had on race day, Rossi believes his lowly showing in FP3 was the cause of his real problem. Had he qualified on the first two rows of the grid, he said, the number 46 could have fought with team-mate Maverick Viñales for the final podium place.

“We are stronger than last year,” he said. “The way is long, the challenge is very high, but we work in a good direction.” To finish just seven seconds back of race winner Marc Marquez, and 25 seconds up on his time from the ’18 outing, were other reasons to be positive.

“So I don't know what we had to expect here in Jerez,” he began. “I hoped in my heart to be strong like in Austin. Unfortunately we were struggling a bit more, I was less fast.

“But we also had some good things, because also if my position is worse than last year, my race was a lot better. Last year I finished fifth but because there were a lot of crashes in front.

“And the pace of the race was very, very fast, I was like 25 seconds faster than my race last year. The gap from the first position is less, I feel more comfortable with the bike, and especially in the last lap, I was fast.

“I think that unfortunately, the weekend became more difficult for me after FP3, because I missed the Q2 by just a few milliseconds. Maybe if I go straight to the Q2, I can start from the second or third row, and if I start more in front, I can stay with the group with the two Ducatis, Maverick, around there.”

Had he considered running Michelin’s medium front tyre that aided Viñales’ cause?

“The choice of the front tyre was really, really at the last moment, because I wanted to try with the medium, but after the temperature went up a lot, and we thought, ‘Medium? Hard? Medium? Hard? Medium? Hard?’” Rossi explained.

“At the end we chose the hard, and I think that this was the bigger thing that we can change, maybe. I mean, I'm very curious to try, to make the race with the medium, because at the end, Maverick was good.

“And for me, the medium was maybe a bit better. But anyway, I was never very strong during all the weekend, at the beginning I struggled with Miller, because I was not strong enough to overtake.

“So it was like this. I am very curious to try the medium. If I come back, maybe I try with the medium. maybe we can be faster, especially at the beginning.”

The result and Rossi’s recovery from nowhere on Friday gave the nine-time world champion the impression he can be truly competitive everywhere. While stopping short of saying he can win this year’s world championship, he opined: “we can fight to … make some podiums and … win some races.”

“We are stronger than last year. The way is long, the challenge is very high, but we work in a good direction. I'm not fully happy for sure, because I hope that also in Jerez, that is a difficult track, we can fight for the podium.

“But at the end, I was a bit more slow. But for me, we can fight. We can fight. I'm not so far in the championship.

“The bigger problem in the championship is Marquez, because he is clearly the fastest, no? So if he didn't crash in Austin, already the difference is big. But we are there, we are 9 points behind. Also [Alex] Rins is very strong, also Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso], but it looks like we can fight to try to make some podiums and try to win some races.”

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