Valentino Rossi admitted Marc Marquez was 'very clever' to position himself behind the Yamaha rider at the end of qualifying for the Catalunya MotoGP.

Marquez snatched second as he closed in on the Italian and, just as with Andrea Dovizioso at the previous Mugello qualifying, looked to have the ideal gap to gain the maximum tow from Rossi on the next lap.

The Honda rider was duly two tenths under Fabio Quartararo's pole time, but lost all his advantage with a big slide at Turn 4. The world champion thus remained second on the grid, while Rossi was delighted with fifth, which became fourth after a penalty for team-mate Maverick Vinales.

It wasn't the first time Marquez had been behind Rossi this weekend (pictured) and the #93 has also been 'studying' the other factory M1 of Vinales.

"I don't know, maybe he follows the others because he doesn't have enough experience! He needs to understand the line!" joked Rossi.

"No, no, apart from the joke, Marquez is not only fast but is always very very clever during practice because he always studies his rivals.

"It is all under calculation, he knows exactly who to follow.

"At the end he gives you no choice; either you make your lap in front of him or you [back off] and don't make the lap!

"But I was very focussed because I know that for me it's important to start on the front two rows and I decide to stay [on a fast lap].

"It was the right choice because I did a good lap."

The other good news for Rossi is that Marquez following is a further sign that The Doctor - and indeed the M1 - are looking competitive this weekend, with Marquez the only non-Yamaha in the top five during Qualifying 2.

"I think that he studies his rivals, especially when you are fast - he wants to try to understand your weak point or your strong point," Rossi said.

Marquez played down the qualifying tow, saying he had only been very close to Rossi on Friday (pictured), but confirmed Yamaha and Suzuki are looking strong for the race.

"Honestly, I just follow him [Rossi] in FP2 very close when he was with a new tyre and I was with the used tyre and I see a few things," Marquez said. "It’s basically always the same. The Yamaha’s carry the corner speed in a very good way. They have good traction.

"This weekend everybody expected Ducati versus Honda, Honda versus Ducati, and it is the opposite. Looks like the bikes that are working better are Yamaha and Suzuki that have less torque and less power. Is interesting also to understand because we have one very long straight, but then 13 corners that they are riding in a very good way."

Marquez brushed off a further question about whether he has changed strategy to actively try and follow other riders more, having often been the one who was followed in previous years: "My target is try to be in the front row all the races and I’ve been, so this is the target."

Either way, Rossi certainly wasn't complaining, especially as he then reversed roles by looking over Marquez's shoulder when the Repsol Honda rider stopped after the session to make a practice start.

"[The practice start] was interesting, just to see how the Honda launch control works, where is the button, the dashboard… but it was just out of curiosity," Rossi said.

Reigning five-time champion Marquez holds a twelve-point title lead over Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso heading into Sunday's grand prix.

Rossi is fifth in standings, as the top Yamaha rider.