When the MotoGP paddock arrived in Texas 12 months ago, the annual game of musical chairs had started earlier than ever with Valentino Rossi and Bradley Smith having signed their deals.
This year the market is taking longer to move and those (non factory) riders out of contract are able to use the early races to find their feet and, more importantly, their form.
Jack Miller is one such competitor and, with his three-year Honda contract expiring this season, the MotoGP race winner is keen to secure his future. Seventh in the standings after a solid start to 2017, the Marc VDS rider is aware that a good opening third of the year is crucial for his future.
“We made another step over the winter for this year and I feel better and better every time I get on the bike. I'm able to feel what the bike is doing much better and understand the front end better and I feel good," assessed Miller
"But Honda is in a difficult position at the moment. You can see that because some of the best riders in the world are on the bike and we're struggling. It's not the easiest moment but everyone is working hard to get through it and make progress.
“I know that this is a contract year so I know that I've got to pull my finger out. Two top ten finishes in the first two races is exactly how I wanted to start the year. I know that between now and, lets say, Catalunya that most of the deals are done. They mightn't be signed and announced but a lot of decisions are made and are on the way to being signed.
"Personally I'm feeling good and am feeling better on the bike every time I get out on track. I understand it more and can get the right feeling from it.”
Having made the jump from Moto3 directly to MotoGP there was a clear bedding in period for Miller as he understood the demands of being a premier class rider. While his win in Assen last year was the obvious highlight of his time in MotoGP, the progress in his approach is something that gives the 22-year-old a lot of confidence going forward.
“I'd not change anything about coming to MotoGP from Moto3 because I've got that win and there's not too many people on this planet that can say that," Miller declared. "I think that I made the right decision and it's been good. I'm a lot more mature now compared to a few years ago and that's been a big difference for me. Everything is different for me in terms of my training and how I approach a race weekend. It's also been important to start the year strong and fit.
“I get on well with the team here at Marc VDS and a lot of that comes down to the fact that I'm working my ass off and everyone can see that. I really think that I'm one of the harder working guys out there now. I feel like a MotoGP rider and I've worked really hard to work as hard as I can. I really enjoy my job and I know that I need to keep working so that I can get a better offer for next year.”
What would that better offer be? Having been entrusted with some of Honda's heavy lifting in the winter - Miller tested engine configurations at Jerez in November, allowing Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa to save their test days - it's clear that the Japanese manufacturer has faith in his feedback.
“The testing programme over the winter was important and it was really good to have the opportunity to test for HRC. I really want to make this work because I enjoy working with Honda and they're one of the best factories in this paddock. It's a difficult period at the minute but every manufacturer has difficult times and Honda are working hard.
“I want to get a bike for next year that gels with my style and Honda has definitely worked hard over the winter to get the bike working for me. I've seen how hard they've worked and that gives you confidence for the future but I also know that I need to get a job for next year.
"I've got options here and I need to weigh them up what's the best for me at this point of my career.”
Fellow satellite Honda MotoGP race winner Cal Crutchlow (LCR) is also out of contract at the end of this season.