Fastest in pre-season testing, and starting fifth on the grid, Jack Miller was expected to be in the thick of the podium fight on his Factory Ducati team debut in Sunday's Qatar MotoGP season-opener.

Initially, all went to plan, the GP21 riders using Ducati's new double holeshot device (front and rear) to devastating effect as they filled the top four places by turn 1.

But by lap 8 Miller had started to decline and although the Australian briefly retaliated at the halfway stage, he slipped steadily down the order over the last nine laps.

"We had a really good start and was able to push as I liked, not too hard in the beginning, but when Viñales came past [lap 8] I thought now it's time to start upping the pace and I was able to do the low ‘55s," Miller said.

"But then, bang, I hit a wall and started losing the rear on the mid-corner.

"I had been trying to manage the tyre in the beginning and it didn’t really work, so we have to understand what I am doing and the others are doing.

"Like I said, I felt extremely comfortable there in third position after Zarco passed me. I said ‘ok, let these boys go’ and I felt I was being very calm and careful with the tyres.

"It was mainly the right side and off gas is where I had the biggest issue.

"I had a big moment as soon as I started to follow Vinales in Turn 5, off-gas. I was using rear brake on angle and lost the rear and when that happens it is quite difficult to carry the corner speed.

"We need to study and understand what I need to change.

"For sure, we don’t want to be in 9th position but those were the cards we were dealt today. 9 points is better than 0 but we need to analyse and work on it.

"For sure these shit little crashes in the afternoon sessions affect my confidence a little bit, but in terms of riding this evening I felt comfortable and confident.

"I felt like I had the pace to fight for victory… For at least half of the race. We need to find 7 second over the next 7 days. It’s as simple as that."

The headwind along the home straight seemed to negate some of Ducati's record-breaking top speed, but Miller denied they needed to save more fuel than expected.

"The wind wasn’t ideal but it’s the same for everyone. It definitely wasn’t as bad as the afternoon. It still wasn’t pleasant," Miller said.

"But the torque maps and that were like normal, as we expected. Qatar is quite a user-friendly track lets say because you have the big straight but the rest - apart from a couple of places like 10, 11 - you are pretty much playing with the gas.

"It’s not like Austria where you are completely flat out. It didn’t really affect us too much in terms of fuel or anything like that."

Ducati went on to finish second and third behind Yamaha's Maverick Vinales in Sunday's race, after both Johann Zarco and Miller's team-mate Francesco Bagnaia narrowly beat the Suzuki of Joan Mir on the run to the line.

"I’ve said all along that they [Suzuki] were sandbagging in the sessions and not really showing their full potential," Miller said of the reigning world champions.

"And today, as we’ve seen many times in the past, they were able to be very gentle with their tyres and be very strong at the end. Mir would have been on the podium today if it wasn’t for that drag race to the finish line.

"Maverick rode an excellent race, but the pace was not ‘54s or anything like that. It was '55s and I could not run that at the end."