Valentino Rossi sees Marc Marquez as the key man to beat in 2017 despite having new Movistar Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales at the top of the timesheet on day two of the Phillip Island MotoGP test.
Vinales pushed Marquez back to second place as the young Spaniard shot to the head of the times on day two of the Phillip Island MotoGP test by more than four tenths, setting his best lap in 1m 28.847s.
The 22-year-old also impressed at Sepang but Rossi, who was eighth fastest on Thursday – eight tenths behind Viñales – believes reigning champion Marquez has the edge.
“In all these tests Marquez and Viñales are the faster, but Marquez more, especially in the pace. It looks like Viñales is very good with the new tyre. It looks like Marquez, with the race rhythm, is the man to beat,” Rossi said. “About the atmosphere [in garage with Viñales] sincerely it's not a big difference. It's the same – different character.
"The important thing is on the track and Viñales is very fast and has a very good feeling with the bike. Sincerely it was not a surprise because everyone knows that he is fast. But he's been very fast from the beginning. It's difficult. I think that we can work well. We share the information to improve the bike. I think that he's very, very strong.”
Rossi admits he will have his hands full this season if he's to beat his young team-mate, but the Italian – who turned 38 on Thursday – pointed out that faced a similar situation last year with Jorge Lorenzo.
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“He's very fast but he's very fast everywhere. He feels very good with the bike. For sure it will be hard to beat him but you know also last year with Lorenzo it was also difficult,” Rossi said. “We have to work and try to arrive ready for Qatar.”