Valentino Rossi believes Marc Marquez will be the "number one man to beat" in the 2015 season while he also foresees improved challenges from Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa for the MotoGP crown.

Both he and team-mate Lorenzo seemed at ease during the Movistar Yamaha team launch in Madrid ahead of his sixteenth year in the premier class.

But Rossi, runner-up to Marquez last season, was keen to emphasise that he and his team need to "make another step" should to consistently match and beat the quixotic talents of the reigning world champion.

"For me the number one man to beat will be Marquez," Rossi told a packed auditorium at Movistar headquarters. "Last year he did an incredible job. For me at exactly the same level is Jorge and also Pedrosa will be for sure better than last year because he change [his] team. I think it will be interesting from the very first test of the year to be closer to the top."

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To take the fight to Repsol Honda Rossi was keen to emphasise that a strong start to the season, particularly the first three rounds before Jerez at the start of May, will be key to a successful championship challenge.

"For sure the first three races will be very, very important," said Rossi. "After Qatar we have Austin which is a difficult track - last year we had some problems. After [we go to] Argentina, which I like. It's important to take a lot of points in the first three races and to come back to Europe with a good ranking position.

"We have to try to be competitive from the beginning and to try to win some races. This is the perfect way to fight for the championship. Last year I finish in the second place, which was not so bad but I was always behind Marquez in the number of points. This year we have to be more close."

Coming off the back of his strongest season since his last world championship year in 2009, Rossi hopes he and Yamaha can continue the momentum that took him to eight podium finishes in the final nine races of 2014.

"Finishing second in the world championship was important, but this year the goal is even higher," he said. "I was able with Yamaha and all my team to improve a lot last year. From the beginning to the end of the season my results were not so bad, especially in the second half of the season. Jorge and I improve a lot the bike and we were very competitive. We ended the season very close to the top. Now the target is to continue like this but we know our opponents are very, very strong so to try and beat them we have to make another step from last year."

The performance of an updated M1 at the post-season test at Valencia was a cause for optimism. Rossi went on to admit that he is relishing testing the full 2015 version for the first time in Malaysia next week.

"We already try the bike two or three times during last year with the prototype, like 2014 and a half. The new final bike that will arrive at Sepang will be ready for Qatar and this is a good track for Yamaha. It will be very important to win in these races."