Valentino Rossi expecting to be on the defensive in MotoGP opener

Valentino Rossi expects to be on the defensive in his first MotoGP race back at Yamaha in Qatar this weekend

Valentino Rossi expecting to be on the defensive in MotoGP opener

The seven-time champion got ever closer to the front during winter testing, topping the final test at Jerez last month, but admits that Losail has always been a relatively weak track for him, although he has three wins there.

"I'm very happy with the work done in Jerez and over the winter. I was fast and everything worked fine and we have a competitive bike to fight for the podium," Rossi said.

"I believe that in Qatar it will not be so easy; it is a track that is a little difficult for me, but I think I can defend myself and get a good result.

"I would like to get on the podium. That's my goal.

"After the testing I know I can be competitive in some tracks but also that I will have some problems in other tracks.

"The most important thing is that now I have a good feeling when I ride my M1 and this will help me at all tracks, including Qatar."

Having only taken three podium finishes in his unsuccessful two-year Ducati sojourn, Rossi is bidding to prove he can still be a title factor back at Yamaha this season. But he said he was no more nervous than usual at this stage.

"Every year you get a little bit nervous at the beginning of the season," said Rossi.

"It's normal to feel like that; it's crucial to get some good points and not to make mistakes."

Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli said Rossi's rate of progress had been as the squad expected.

"Valentino has improved his feeling with the bike at each test," said Meregalli.

"It's normal that it has taken him more time because for two years he has had another bike, but at Jerez he definitely proved he had the right feeling."

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