If Friday's free practice results are repeated in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix then Valentino Rossi would achieve his objective of wrapping up his seventh MotoGP crown before the Valencia season finale - just.

Rossi starts the penultimate round 38 points clear of Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo - meaning that if Lorenzo wins, Rossi needs fourth to claim the title on Sunday.

And that was how the factory M1 riders finished Friday practice - Lorenzo leading nearest rival Casey Stoner by 0.064sec, with Rossi also behind Honda's Dani Pedrosa and 0.684sec from the top.

The Italian had been fastest for the first half of the session, before being caught and passed by his three main rivals.

"I am quite happy about today, even if the time and the position isn't perfect," said the 30-year-old. "We worked mainly with old tyres to understand the nature of the bike when it's sliding, which is important here, but actually my pace was very consistent and I think we can make another step tomorrow.

"It seems that Bridgestone have brought good tyres here, they are working very well despite the very hot temperatures and the fact that the track is a little bit dirty today. We still need to find a little bit more grip so we will look to improve the setting of the bike for this in the morning - it's going to be very important to be on the front row for Sunday.

"I think the race will be very hard and we will have to take care to prepare properly and drink a lot of water because it is very, very hot," he warned.

"We were faster at the start and less so later - the other riders made an improvement - but now we have a lot of data and we just need to put it all together in order to improve our pace tomorrow," added team manager Davide Brivio.

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