Valentino Rossi says he has not been asked to assist or give extra room to Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales in the MotoGP title fight… yet.

"At this moment, no. Usually Yamaha don’t do [that], but it depends very much from the championship. If it will be very, very close, maybe is possible" said the nine time world champion, speaking in the Motegi paddock on the eve of this weekend's Japanese MotoGP.

Honda's reigning champion Marc Marquez starts the opening 'flyway' round holding a 16-point advantage over Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso, with Vinales 28 points behind with four rounds and 100 points to play for.

But all three also have exceptionally strong team-mates – Rossi at Yamaha, Dani Pedrosa at Honda and Jorge Lorenzo at Ducati - creating an 'interesting' situation.

"It is an interesting situation because all the three factories have the second rider that is fast and maybe can help the first rider for the championship," Rossi said. "So we will see!"

The nine-time world champion qualified third and finished fifth on his comeback from a fractured right tibia and fibula last time at Aragon. The Italian has now almost doubled his recovery time to 42 days ahead of this weekend's Motegi event.

"My leg is for sure a lot better. I've had this extra week, which was very important because after Aragon I suffer a bit," he said. "The leg now is a lot better, still some pain but for me on the bike I suppose I can ride. Because anyway the leg is better than Aragon. I'm not 100% for sure, also about the training because I have to modify a bit. But I feel good. Not so bad."

Asked if he will continue using the thumb operated rear brake, credited with helping his early comeback, Rossi revealed he had actually been running it before he was injured.

"I use already before the problem," he smiled.

From the start of the season?

"The start no, but after five or six races I think. For me, for my [leg] problem, it is good and can help. And it is something that can help in general in some places."

And would the forecast rain be good for Rossi's chances this weekend?

"If it is wet it will be a great shame because on this track I think we can be competitive in the dry. Last year I was very competitive in the wet, this year not a lot, so I hope for the dry."

"[Our problems in the wet] are the same as the dry. After some laps the rear tyre start to lose a lot of grip. Full wet is not so bad, but if not a lot of water we suffer. So we need to understand because last year we were very strong."

Rossi - who missed his home Misano round - has slipped 56 points from Marquez, meaning The Doctor is now the fifth and final rider still in mathematical championship contention with four rounds remaining.

The Italian and then team-mate Jorge Lorenzo both crashed out of last year's Motegi race, handing the 2016 title to Marquez earlier than expected.


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