Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were amused to be asked about their 'relationship' during Thursday's pre-event press conference for the Australian MotoGP.

The Movistar Yamaha team-mates are separated by 18 points at the head of the world championship with three rounds remaining and, given their 'frosty' past history, it wasn't a surprising question.

Both admitted the increasing title intensity has changed the atmosphere, but insisted they are experienced enough to handle the situation.

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"We are very happy about your interest," joked championship leader Rossi. "We have a diary about our relationship, which we will keep secret until the last race!

"No, it's always difficult when you fight for the championship. Sometimes you have also difficult moments, but I think it's normal. We get used to staying together in the same team and also we are very focussed on our own work and at the same time have respect from both sides.

"So I think this is a good situation, but for sure now we are hard rivals and the battle is difficult but is normal."

Lorenzo, winner of six races compared with four for Rossi, added: "Usually in MotoGP we are asked about the circuit, tyres, or settings... But anyway [our relationship] is ok. We are two world champions that this year want the same thing and it's normal that the relationship gets a little bit more tense.

"But it would be the same with Dani, Marc or any other riders if we are fighting together for the world championship. I'm sure in the future we will again have a more relaxed relationship."

For the third time this season, Rossi got the better of Lorenzo in wet conditions at Motegi, snatching second place from the #99 as both struggled with front tyre wear in the closing stages.

That result means Rossi can afford to finish one place behind Lorenzo even if the Spaniard wins the remaining three races, but few - least of all Rossi - believe it will be that simple.

"18 points can be a good advantage but also can become very small," Rossi said. "We have three races but now we have this track that I like very much with some great races and great results. But as always, all the rivals are very strong and especially Jorge is also very fast here. So from tomorrow morning, will start another battle here at Phillip Island.

"This year in MotoGP, from the first race, can have six riders ready for the victory or at least for the podium," Rossi added. "So it is very difficult to make any calculations [with the points] because for example in the last races also Pedrosa come back very, very strong.

"He beat me in Aragon on the last lap and in Motegi he was able to win. Have also Marquez and the two Ducatis that are very strong. You have to be at 100% because if not it is very easy to lose a lot of points.

"Every year is a story, but this year [the title] is still completely open with three races to go. So I think it is the most difficult yes."

Lorenzo is currently considered the quickest of the title rivals in normal dry conditions, but Rossi has made the least mistakes and coped better with bad weather.

"Usually I am very constant," confirmed the seven time MotoGP champion. "In the last two years we improve a lot the way to work and the setting of the bike, so more-or-less I am always competitive in the races. I can ride at the maximum and make always good results and I'm quite strong in the wet.

"But anyway it is not finished yet and the best rider will be the one that wins [the title] in Valencia."

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These two have had a healthy respect for each other for a number of years now. When Vale came back from Ducati, Lorenzo was his most vocal supporter (though whether he thought he was quite this good I'm not sure!).