Valentino Rossi expected Fabio Quartararo to be strong during his rookie MotoGP season. But not this strong.

The young Frenchman claimed his fourth pole of the season at Buriram and looks set to fight for a fifth podium of the year - and perhaps even the first ever victory by a satellite Yamaha rider – on Sunday.

"Quartararo's very impressive this season because I expected he would be strong - because Quartararo was already fantastic when he was 15. He did something special - but sincerely I don’t expect like this," Rossi said.

"I think nobody expected it. He is very fast, strong, doesn’t make mistakes and I think that he can be very, very strong in the future."

Rossi, who left the pits with Quartararo at the start of qualifying, added: "He rides the Yamaha very well because he's very smooth and I think he's very strong in braking because he is able to stop the bike very well."

The 20-year-old has been granted extra revs for the remainder of the season, having previously been 500rpm lower than the factory machines of team-mate Franco Morbidelli, plus Rossi and Maverick Vinales.

But while Quartararo was celebrating pole position on Saturday, Rossi was down in ninth place after falling on his opening run.

"It's a shame because we had the potential to do better, because my pace in FP4 is quite good and so we wanted to try to start in the top five," said Rossi, who was caught out at the same Turn 5 where Quartararo and Marc Marquez would fall at the end of qualifying.

"Unfortunately with the first tyre I made a mistake, that corner is a little bit critical because it has a lot of bumps, but I think I was a little bit wide and I lost the front.

"I had enough time anyway to go out again with the other bike, but the other bike was a bit different and especially we don’t have the same tyre.

"It's always difficult starting from the third row, but my pace is quite good. So we hope for a dry race after the rain this morning (pictured) and we will try to be strong."

Casting his eye over the timesheets, Rossi felt that the front row of Quartararo, Maverick Vinales and Marquez also currently have a slight edge in race trim.

"It looks like also tomorrow the top three - Quartararo, Vinales and Marquez - have a bit better pace," he said.

Rossi will be seeking to break an 11-race podium drought on Sunday, at a circuit where he led the race and only narrowly missed out on a rostrum one year ago.

The Doctor currently sits sixth in the world championship, between Vinales and Quartararo.

 

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