Jorge Lorenzo paid Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi a huge compliment during the Misano pre-event press conference on Thursday.
When the riders were asked to choose between motorcycle grand prix legends Mike Hailwood or Giacomo Agostini, the reigning double world champion replied:
“Is it possible to say Valentino? I didn't see either Hailwood or Agostini race, but I know Giacomo... and so I would say Giacomo.
“But also I have the honour to race Valentino and for me Valentino is one of the greatest. So if I could choose one of these three, I would say Valentino.”
Lorenzo and Rossi endured a frosty relationship as team-mates between 2008-2010, but have formed a much more amiable partnership since the Italian's Yamaha return in 2013.
Rossi, after thanking Lorenzo, answered as follows: “I am older than the other guys but still not enough to see Ago and Hailwood race. Difficult question. Ago won more but for a lot of people Hailwood was the man who made more difference. But because I am Italian, I will say Agostini!”
Agostini holds the all-time record for grand prix titles, with a total of 15 in the 500cc and 350cc classes between 1966 and 1977. Agostini's eight 500cc crowns mean he is the only rider with more premier-class titles than Rossi.
Briton Hailwood, who Rossi previously paid tribute to upon matching his 76 GPs in 2005, claimed nine world titles between 1961 and 1967 ( 4 x 500cc, 2 x 350cc and 2 x 250cc).