Fabio Quartararo is yet to take a MotoGP race win but the rookie's stunning debut season means he is already being touted as a 2020 title contender.

The latest to do so is none other than nine-time champion and factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi, who said after Quartararo's fifth pole position of the season at Sepang on Saturday:

"I think that Quartararo can fight for the championship next year because he's very, very, very fast. So why not?"

Quartararo - who will join team-mate Franco Morbidelli in having an A-spec bike for 2020 - has twice battled for a MotoGP victory on the final lap of a race, narrowly losing out to reigning champion Marc Marquez in both Misano and Buriram.

But Marquez will start just eleventh on Sunday's grid after falling while trying to follow Quartararo at the end of qualifying.

Meanwhile, looking to his own future, Rossi added: "We will change something next year and try to be more competitive, and try to fight."

That something will mainly involve having a new crew chief, with David Munoz stepping up from Rossi's Moto2 team, while Silvano Galbusera switches to the Yamaha test team.

But given Munoz works for VR46, did Rossi ever consider making the crew chief switch immediately?

"Yeah, you can do. But for me, it's better not to," he replied. "Also for Silvano, for everything… In this world when you make a commitment you have to finish it. For me it's better like this.

"David next year starts from zero, he doesn’t have a lot of experience, but anyway we have time in the winter."

Rossi was speaking after qualifying sixth in Malaysia - but still slowest of the Yamahas with Quartararo, Maverick Vinales and Morbidelli sweeping the front row.

"All the Yamahas, especially in the hot lap, improve very much and I arrive [better] after some races where I was struggling a lot," Rossi said. "It looks like during this weekend I am more competitive because I ride better and I have a better pace. And also with the rear tyre I can stay more constant. So this is very important for tomorrow.

"I will start from the second row, that is not so bad. As always there are four or five riders that are very strong on the pace, so we will see but we have to try to make a good race."

Rossi, who led the 2018 race before falling in the closing stages, added: "Last year was perfect for the first 15 laps! Usually [this year] Sunday is a bit different for everybody, so we need to understand if I am competitive…"

A satellite Yamaha rider is yet to win a race in MotoGP, while Rossi starts the penultimate round ten points behind Quartararo in the world championship.