Jorge Lorenzo is predicting a 'big season' for his Yamaha Factory Racing team-mate Valentino Rossi in the 2014 MotoGP World Championship.
Nine-time world champion Rossi has appointed Silvano Galbusera as his new crew chief in place of Jeremy Burgess as he bids to edge closer to the top three of Marc Marquez, Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa this season.
The Italian superstar has set himself a target of challenging for the rostrum places at every race on the YZR-M1 and Lorenzo – last year's championship runner-up behind Repsol Honda sensation Marquez – says he is 'convinced' Rossi will be more competitive in 2014.
“I expect a big season from Vale. To me he has all the credentials to get on the podium. During this season he will have a great desire to rebuild – I am convinced he will make a lot of progress over last year,” Lorenzo told GPOne.com
“I think that, in addition to the podium, he could easily win some races. Last year at Assen has proven he is a great champion.”
Lorenzo has undergone two operations during the off-season in preparation for the opening pre-season test at Sepang in early February and is eagerly awaiting the chance to return to the track in Malaysia.
“I cannot wait for February to be getting on the bike. We hope to find a Yamaha with better electronics. Last year we made significant progress, but this is not enough. We need to work even harder to be competitive right away. There is still time and so I am confident.”
Lorenzo singles out world champion Marquez as the rider to beat this season but is also wary of the threat posed by Dani Pedrosa, whose title hopes last year suffered a major blow following a shoulder injury at the Sachsenring.
“Marquez is the opponent to beat, having won the championship, but do not forget Pedrosa. If he had not fallen in Germany he would have challenged until the last race,” he said.
“And then there's Valentino, who I am sure will do very well. Finally, I am curious to see the Ducati. [Cal] Crutchlow and [Andrea] Dovizioso are two great drivers and in addition, the inclusion of [Luigi] Dall'Igna will be felt this year.”
On reports linking Lorenzo himself to Ducati in 2015, the Spaniard again reiterated his commitment to Yamaha.
“Obviously there is no truth, because there has never been any contact between me and Ducati. My goal, as I have already said, is to stay with Yamaha until the end of my career,” said Lorenzo.
Quizzed on the prospect of riding in the same team as Marquez in the future, Lorenzo admitted he would have no qualms in competing alongside his young rival, although he doubts such an opportunity will ever materialise.
“It would not be a problem [competing in the same team as Marquez]. Both would have the right incentive to give their best at every race,” he said. “It might be interesting, although I think there will never be an opportunity.”