Jorge Lorenzo has tipped arch-rival Marc Marquez as a narrow favourite for the 2014 MotoGP title.
Honda rider Marquez edged Yamaha man Lorenzo by just four points at the end of last year's epic championship battle.
"The championship is going to be even tighter than last season was," said Lorenzo, as his Yamaha squad unveiled a new title sponsorship deal with Movistar in Qatar on Wednesday.
"At the beginning Marquez just begins as the favourite contender.
"Afterwards I guess Dani [Pedrosa] or me are in a good position but also Valentino [Rossi] who is even hungrier than in 2013."
Although Marquez is still recovering from a broken leg sustained when training on a dirt-bike last month, Lorenzo does not think this will hold him back significantly.
"Regarding Marc's pace we should wait before saying anything about it," said the 2010 and '12 champion.
"He is so strong and quick. Maybe he won't start at a perfect level but I'm pretty sure he is going to be close to 100 per cent."
Lorenzo expressed frustration on several occasions over the winter, initially as Yamaha struggled to adapt its electronics to the 2014 Factory fuel limit of 20kg per race, then as Bridgestone's latest tyres proved less compatible with the M1 than the Honda.
But he said both those issues now seemed to have been addressed.
"I start in a very good position, filled with positive energy and optimism," Lorenzo insisted.
"The bike with the new changes is working really well and we solved the little problem of the engine, fixing the electronics in order to mitigate the aggressive behavior on the starts.
"Now it's response is softer than at the beginning of the season in Malaysia and also we can count on a 'complete' seamless gearbox, that is also good news for us.
"As we were able to improve our performance at Phillip Island with the new tyres I feel quite confident for the very first race."
He also believes the physical problems that affected him in testing following winter surgery have also eased.
Lorenzo required several off-season operations following the injuries that blighted his 2013 title bid.
"I undertook three surgeries during the winter time to take out some plates and metal pieces from the collarbone and the hand so I returned to full fitness quite late," he said.
"In general I feel nearly at 100 per cent and I guess in Qatar I won't have any problems to push to the maximum."
Subscribe to Autosport Plus
Register for free