Valentino Rossi has said there is no great difference to him whether Jorge Lorenzo decides to stay in Movistar Yamaha colours for the 2017 MotoGP season or Maverick Vi?ales replaces him, but admitted the Suzuki man will be a 'hard' opponent in the near future.

Friday evening in Texas wasn't the first time Rossi has sung Vi?ales' praises and the Italian believes the Suzuki's speed around the Circuit of the Americas was further proof that the 21-year old can compete with the class' leading lights throughout the year.

Asked on Friday evening whether he would welcome Vi?ales into the Yamaha fold, Rossi said, "For me, no problem. It's not a big difference if Lorenzo remain, or Vi?ales come, or also Iannone, or also Pedrosa. It's true for sure that with Vi?ales will be very hard, because he is very young, and he have a good talent, and I think that he will become one of the top riders of MotoGP very soon.

"I think that Vi?ales demonstrated today that he can stay with the top guys for all the season. Because we go in a very different track, and in three tracks, the Suzuki with him is very strong. I think he rides so well, he's a clever rider, and he understand the way to use the MotoGP. So I think him together with his bike, they are growing up a lot.

"For me, Suzuki is very good in the chassis, and is similar to Honda when you follow, but very reactive and very precise. Last year, they had a big disadvantage in the engine, but looks like this year, they improve a lot. But is also true that in this case, Vi?ales is faster than Espargaro, so it means that he finds a way to ride the bike at the maximum."

Rossi ended the second free practice sixth fastest, just 0.073s slower and a place behind team-mate Lorenzo. Identifying braking stability as an area in need of improving, the number 46 feels he can be competitive come Sunday.

"The second session was not so bad. I was quite fast in the beginning. We tried something on the bike and in the last run it was not so bad. But unfortunately I did two mistakes. I was never able to do a good lap. If not I could stay more in front. I have quite good potential because I am quite fast everywhere. We suffer a little too much in braking so we need to work to try and improve this part because it's very easy to make mistakes.

"The tyres we need to understand. We have to wait on the hard rear that arrives tomorrow. Also the front is very open. We have three tyres. I think the tyres will make the difference and will be the key for the race."

On Marquez's staggering speed around Austin, which took Rossi's arch enemy to the top of the time sheets to the tune of 0.7s he added, "Also, it looks like the front of the Honda is very very good, also with the Michelin, and M?rquez can enter very fast, and also for this reason is competitive. And also, we have to say, he is a lot faster than Pedrosa. This means also that he rides so fast."


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