Valentino Rossi hailed his vital front row start in Austin as the key to giving himself a chance of breaking away with Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo at the Circuit of the Americas.

Rossi joined his Movistar team-mate on the front row, lapping four tenths slower than pole man Marquez as the Yamaha pair put the pressure on the MotoGP World Championship leader.

The Italian has improved markedly in qualifying in 2016, a factor he puts down largely to the feeling he has with the new Michelin tyres.

"It's so important [front row] because Marquez and Lorenzo are very strong so it's important if I want to try and stay with them," Rossi said.

"I'm quite satisfied with the work because today we improved the bike this morning and this afternoon, also in the free practice I had quite good pace. Always the qualifying is more difficult because you have to go faster without making any mistakes, so I'm happy about third position.

"If I want to try to stay with them I have to try to be more consistent in the qualifying and it looks like this year we work, and especially I feel better, with the Michelin; when I have to do the lap I feel more comfortable and I can give a little bit more," he added.

"This is very important but at the same [time], it's very important to find the right tyre and the right balance for tomorrow because in the laps it will be hard."

Asked during the post-qualifying press conference how the Yamaha riders could thwart Marquez's bid to win a fourth straight premier class race in Texas, Rossi joked that it could still take 'five or six years'.

"We improve year-by-year and step-by-step we get closer, so if we continue like this, in five or six years maybe we can win! But apart from the joke the situation improves very much not year-by-year or track-by-track, but sometimes practice-by-practice," said the nine-time world champion.

"For example, yesterday the Ducatis were so strong, faster than the Yamahas, but today we were better and the Ducatis more in trouble. You have to work and stay concentrated and for sure the tyres make a big difference. In some places we can be stronger but maybe some other tracks also worse.

"What we can do is try to concentrate on ourselves, and the first part is to start from the front row and we are there, then we have the warm-up to try to find the right tyres to try to understand the rhythm," he added.

"And also especially the start and the first laps because they are so fast, so this is the key to try to stay together and understand what we can do."

This weekend has seen Rossi put some laps on the alternative 2016 M1, with the fuel tank more to the rear. But due to the lack of time available, he hopes to evaluate the option further after this weekend.

"Yamaha continue to work on the weight distribution to try to improve the feeling to try to follow our direction," Rossi said.

"I tried the different bike but first I don't like and unfortunately we don't have enough time in the weekend of the race, because already we have not enough time to set one bike and if you have another one, it is impossible.

"We continue to work and follow that way in the test, maybe after Jerez, and we try to find something better."