Ducati newcomer Jorge Lorenzo admits sixth place on the grid for the Austin MotoGP race has come as a relief for himself and his team, after a difficult start to the season.
Lorenzo finished only 11th on his Ducati debut in Qatar and retired due to an opening-lap crash in the second race in Argentina.
At Austin, he was one of eight riders to crash in third practice, and then had to navigate the first phase of qualifying, aided in progressing by Loris Baz's wild moment at the final corner.
He ultimately secured the final spot on the second row of the grid in qualifying, beating team-mate Andrea Dovizioso to sixth by 0.280 seconds, and was visibly upbeat arriving back in the Ducati garage.
"I wouldn't be happy in the last years finishing sixth," Lorenzo said.
"But knowing where we were before here and the bad races in Qatar and Argentina, not an especially good pre-season - finally a quite good result, a big breath [of relief] for all the team, for me - I was happy."
Having lapped 1.410s slower than polesitter Marc Marquez, Lorenzo acknowledges he and Ducati were still "far" from the Honda rider, or his Yamaha replacement Maverick Vinales.
"Here the Honda works very well, in general the Yamaha is working very well," he said.
"Still we are quite far in general, in other tracks we need to improve so much the bike for the future.
"But the important thing is that every day I feel more connected to the bike, I could be closer to the limit that, in this moment, the bike can offer me, so that's a good sign.
"From my side, every time I need to work more to get the maximum of the bike - from the side of Ducati, for the future, they need to improve the weak points that we have now."
Lorenzo felt his first-corner accident in Argentina was particularly costly as it followed a change to his riding position made in practice, and denied him an opportunity to learn more, while he dropped positions by running off on the first lap in Qatar.
With mileage crucial and only five points on the board from the first two races, Lorenzo says he will take a risk-averse approach on Sunday.
"If I had finished the race in Argentina, probably [at Austin] I could take some more risks," he said.
"But I have to try to avoid another zero. Especially in the first laps.
"If [retiring from the race] happens in the middle of the race or at the end of the race, when you get more kilometres, it's another thing - but if it happens again on the first or second lap, it's not the best.
"I need to take not so many risks, important thing is to finish the race.
"We're going to try to finish, if possible, in the top five, top six, if it's not possible, top 10."