Maverick Viñales used his first public appearance in Movistar Yamaha colours to express his belief that he can challenge for the MotoGP world championship from the first round, and feels the unerring consistency he showed in 2016 will aid his quest.
Fastest at the end of his first two days aboard Yamaha's M1 in Valencia, and rumoured to be as quick in a private Malaysian test soon after, Viñales saw enough from his new machine and crew to suggest he can challenge the best for a first premier class crown.
Now entering his third year in MotoGP, the 22-year old insisted the need to arrive at Qatar with the mentality that the title is achievable, and later on, pointed to his second year with Suzuki, when he placed inside the top six in every dry race bar one, as proof of his consistency.
“Honestly, this will be my third year in MotoGP and I think I've had enough experience to know how the races will go,” said a confident Viñales at Movistar Yamaha's team presentation in Madrid.
“I know I will need experience with the Yamaha, but already from the first race we can think to fight for the title.
“It is important to start with this mentality, because maybe in the middle of the season you start to think [it's possible to fight for the title] and it's too late. So you have to start [the season] thinking like that and always have this objective in mind. It's important not to lose the objective, because with the objective comes the motivation.
“About the pressure, I've always worked very well with pressure and I remember I did my best races last year during the deal between Suzuki and Yamaha; there was a lot of pressure! With pressure I work even better, because I know there is an objective and I feel even more motivated.
“For me, it's important to always have the mentality that regularity can win the title. It's very important to be on the podium all the time, for sure, or winning races. But it's better one day to make 16 points than zero. It's important to always have that in mind.
“At Suzuki sometimes I thought 'maybe I can make the podium, but maybe I crash'. Like at Aragon, so I decided to make fourth, because it was stupid to take more risks than I was taking at that moment.
“Normally on the bike I think a lot and I hope this year also I will think and not get too 'hot'! It's a good quality if you can think on the bike, because sometimes you get 'hot', don't understand the limit and you crash.”
Movistar team manager Massimo Meregalli assured reporters that Viñales is “ready” to challenge the likes of Marc Marquez, Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo for the ultimate honour, a sentiment that was given added weight when the 22-year old spoke of his experiences at a November test in Sepang.
“I don't know, normally I adapt to the bike really fast. In Sepang I was already feeling 'wow, it's my bike, I can do what I want!' Then another rider makes two or three tenths and to go there you have to improve.
“I think this year we need to have the experience to not get nervous, because last year I got nervous sometimes, because I was feeling I was at 100% of the bike and still four tenths back. I think this year I can be always there, that's important and makes me really calm.”
When he finalised his move to Yamaha in June last year, Viñales always spoke of his desire to learn from Rossi at close quarters. Asked how their relationship will develop now they are team-mates, the 2013 Moto3 world champion stressed the need to work together to beat reigning champ Marquez.
“I think, like we showed in Valencia, I have the speed to ride really fast. And Valentino has a great experience. So with both combinations we can develop a really good bike. I think Valentino is at a great level, he is always working and thinking for the race, not for the fast lap.
“If we start to fight each other, you cannot be focused as if you are concentrating on yourself and doing the best you can do. Honestly, it will be difficult - to beat Marquez you have to be at 200%. So we have to build a really good bike.”
Vinales also made clear he will be studying the data of predecessor, and triple MotoGP champion, Jorge Lorenzo - as well as Rossi and others.
"Sure I will use, everyday, the data from Jorge or even from other riders," he said. "Normally you always find something that is better and if you can learn and improve it's always good.
"For example, in Valencia, this long corner, I was entering the first part with a lot of gas and then I was slowing down. After looking at the data I was saying 'maybe if we do it in a different way, we can improve'.
"And finally, the last sector was the best one. So it's very important to be intelligent and look at the other riders. For sure, some corners someone's better than you and if you can learn it, it's better than not looking at the data and not knowing."