'Open'. That was the word Valentino Rossi used to describe the podium, victory and tyre choice ahead of Sunday's Malaysian MotoGP.

Twelfth after a rain interrupted opening day, the Movistar Yamaha rider had rocketed up the timesheets to lead the Saturday morning session.

Rossi then dropped back to ninth in final practice, before momentarily seizing pole position in the closing stages of qualifying, only for Dani Pedrosa (Honda), Johann Zarco (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) to bump him off the front row.

"It was a good day, because I was always quite competitive from this morning to this afternoon," Rossi began. "But it is very, very open - the fight for victory, the fight for the podium - because have a lot, a lot of different riders that have the pace for the podium but also for victory.

"I think Pedrosa is always very strong at this race track. But Zarco is very fast and also Dovi has a great pace. So I think the first row start for the victory. But in the second row me, Maverick, Lorenzo and also for sure Marquez can fight. So have a lot of riders that are very strong.

"We have to still work because in some areas I'm not very happy with my balance and also the tyre choice will be very important, as a lot of times this year.

"The choice is open and this time also more than usual because we don't have a clear idea about the front tyre [as well as the rear]. Can be medium or hard and also the combination between the two can make the difference.

"So we have to work and wait tomorrow for the weather conditions. Because it looks like the forecast is worse than today. We hope we can race with the slick and make a dry race."

With the title fight between Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso nearing its climax, some have speculated that Sunday's race might see a role reversal of the  2015 encounter between Marquez and then title contender Rossi.

The #46 dodged the comparison when asked by BT Sport, but does expect a 'strong' battle of the kind seen last weekend at Phillip Island:

"For me sincerely I want to try to make the best race possible and try to arrive on the podium. I know it will be very difficult but we are there and I think that we have to fight very strong, like Phillip Island."


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