Andrea Dovizioso gave credit to Valentino Rossi in their battle for the final rostrum spot at the Malaysian MotoGP having felt the nine-time world champion was “aggressive but clean” at Sepang.

The pair spent the majority of the Malaysian race fighting for third place after Maverick Vinales and Marc Marquez had escaped further ahead.

Rossi, looking for his first podium since the Americas round back in April, lined up numerous moves at Turn 9 trying to use his Yamaha’s superior cornering speed but lost out under the acceleration out of the turn with Dovizioso using his Ducati’s power to charge back ahead.

With Dovizioso holding on to third place, the Italian gave a nod to the 40-year-old as he felt the pair fought fairly on track without losing too much time and allowing Suzuki’s Alex Rins to disrupt their rhythm as the Spanish rider closed in on them from fifth place.

“It is always difficult as Valentino never gives up but at the end it is nice to battle with Valentino because he is aggressive but clean,” Dovizioso said. “Normally he doesn’t do crazy things so I was able to manage the situation in a normal way.

“He is aggressive but normally doesn’t make a stupid move so the battle was nice and I was able to answer clean and in the right way. It worked for me. Also we didn’t lose time because Rins was coming so I think also for that reason Valentino didn’t make crazy things.”

Dovizioso also says he had to rely on his experience battling Yamaha riders, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of both his Ducati and Rossi’s M1, having held on to third place for the majority of the fight at Sepang with his fellow countryman stalking him.

“When you never follow a rider you don’t really know the points at the corners,” he explained. “He always stayed behind me so I really didn’t know. I know his style and the style of the bike but I didn’t know every detail so it was a bit difficult. I wanted to stay in front because with the heat if you follow riders here it is even worse. I stayed in front and I tried to manage it.

“For our bike we are so slow in the middle of the corners but we can accelerate better so for a rider behind me it is always difficult especially if you are on a Yamaha because in the middle of the corner you can be faster but there wasn’t a really fast corner to make a big difference at the exit.

“Every acceleration I was better so I slowed down in the middle of the corner a little bit because the tyre didn’t given me the possibility to be faster. I couldn’t make the speed in the middle of the corners like I did in practice.

“So I slowed down, tried to cut every corner, with a good lap time it wasn’t bad but I didn’t have everything under control. I was able to control him also because when he tried to overtake me I saw he was really on the limit so it confirmed he didn’t have cards to use against me.”

While Rossi is enduring the longest winless stretch of his MotoGP career, currently at 46 races, the Italian is also on his longest podium drought since his Ducati days.