Championship outsider Fabio Quartararo says he needs to “make a big step” up ahead of qualifying for the MotoGP finale at Valencia.
The Monster Energy Yamaha rider trails Francesco Bagnaia by 23 points and needs to win, while hoping his key rival achieves a race result no better than 15th, in order to claim a second straight title.
He began the weekend well enough, topping Free Practice 1, but slipped to eighth on the timesheet in the afternoon session, when he was 0.005s quicker than Bagnaia around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
“It's a good day, especially my pace was very good,” said Quartararo.
“We know that we struggle on the time attack. Last year we had some difficulties, but I think we are working really well.
“We need to see where we can make another step for [Saturday's] time attack. We have to make a big step, especially for the afternoon. Qualifying will be the most important thing.
“As for race pace, we have it. If I have a good start, I think we can fight for the victory.
“We're working well as a team to make it happen, but we have to work step-by-step.
“We need a good qualifying first, and then we'll see.”
Yamaha Team Director Massimo Meregalli remarked, “Fabio had the best start to the weekend we could have asked for.
“He was feeling good with the bike from the beginning of FP1. His race pace and speed were also really good in FP2.
“We need to be a bit stronger with the soft tyre, and together with him we will try to understand where there‘s still room to improve the package.”
Quartararo seems somewhat more confident than Bagnaia, who admits he is missing “feeling” in part because his crashes last time out at Sepang have left him cautious, notwithstanding that he did go on to win that Malaysian Grand Prix.
Action at Valencia resumes this evening (AEDT).