Valentino Rossi’s bid for a first Yamaha podium since the end of 2010 will commence from a lowly seventh on the grid after the Italian experienced an eventful qualifying session in Qatar last night.
Competing in the new 15-minute sprint session to decide places for the top 12 grid positions, Rossi could only finish seventh fastest with a best lap of 1.55.711.
That put the 34-year-old a massive 0.997s behind factory Yamaha teammate and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo and he will start from the third row with Alvaro Bautista and impressive British rookie Bradley Smith.
And a result which got the social media sites buzzing with debate was the fact that Rossi was outpaced by compatriot Andrea Dovizioso, who produced the performance of the night to get within 0.009s of qualifying the Ducati GP13 on the front row.
The nine-times world champion though didn’t have a trouble free run on either two of the soft rear Bridgestone tyres he had at his disposal for the decisive time attack.
He ran off track at the first corner at the start of his second lap on the first tyre and lost 15 seconds and after coming into the pits for the second tyre, he encountered traffic as most of the 12 riders came into pit lane at a similar time.
Rossi said: “My mistake was that after the second lap with the first tyre I went straight at the first corner because I wasn't able to stop, so I lost the 15 seconds to come back.
"When I arrive in the pit I was in delay by 15 seconds compared to Jorge. And with the second soft tyre I was stuck in traffic and I couldn't improve my time but with this new qualifying you need to think more about where you want to go.
"You need to understand the way and study your strategy to be out on the track in the right moment. If not some riders are in front and others wait a little.
"Jorge was able to go out alone while I started together with the other guys so that was my mistake."
Rossi admitted that starting from the third row put a dent in his hopes of returning to Yamaha with a fairytale win in tonight’s 22-lap encounter.
Rossi, who won 46 races in his previous seven-year stint with Yamaha, added: “For the race it will be more difficult to start from the third row but I have a good pace, so I will try to do a good start and see what happens.
"The pace for the race is not so bad and I am quite fast. Unfortunately on the soft tyre the other guys are faster and stronger.
"It was very important that if you don't start from the first row to be at least in the first five but the pity is that I lost the second row and my potential is higher than this qualifying.”
Rossi also admitted that he doesn’t have the same confidence to push Yamaha’s YZR-M1 hard and fast immediately on soft rubber like teammate Lorenzo and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow, who secured his eighth front row start in MotoGP with a best lap of 1.54.916.
Rossi said: “I still don't have enough feeling with the bike compared to Lorenzo and Crutchlow to go 110% with the soft tyre. From the other side my rhythm is not so bad but for sure starting from the third row is harder.”