Yamaha's Motor Racing managing director Lin Jarvis believes six riders have the potential to fight for podiums at each MotoGP race this year, but only three will be genuine title contenders.
Jarvis is to oversee the reunited Yamaha 'dream-team' of reigning double champion Jorge Lorenzo and returning seven time champion Valentino Rossi this season.
And the Englishman feels that Rossi, despite claiming just three podiums since leaving Yamaha for Ducati at the end of 2010, can take on Lorenzo and last year's title runner-up Dani Pedrosa.
“I think this year's Championship is very, very exciting,” said Jarvis. “Last year there were three riders at the top of their game, with Casey and Dani and Jorge. Valentino was not competitive. This year we will see, I am sure, Valentino will be there, Jorge will be there, Dani surely will be there. Dani did a cracking job in the second half of last season and now we have Marquez joining as well.
“In terms of just the two Factory teams, Honda and Yamaha, there are four riders who will be battling for the podium in every single race. Then of course we have the outsiders: we have Cal Crutchlow with us as well, Cal has done very well, he was quick already in Sepang and then there is Bradl as well on a Honda.
“In my opinion six riders can be there on any race, going for the podium. To challenge for the title? In my opinion there are just three riders and that will be Jorge, Dani and Valentino.”
Jarvis insists that Rossi, one of the oldest riders on the grid at 34, still has the hunger needed for at least one more title.
“I think Valentino, from what I saw in [testing at] Sepang, is highly motivated to come back and to show he's still there, still capable and he wants to win the World Championship again, maybe more than one,” Jarvis explained.
“One of the things with Valentino, which I am always amazed and impressed by, he is, although he's been in this sport a long, long time, he still is passionate about MotoGP. He had the choice to go, few years ago, to race in Formula One. That option was available to him but he chose motorcycling, he chose to stay here.