Valentino Rossi was happy to hear Franco Morbidelli's eloquent words on their friendship being more important than MotoGP, as the pair become team-mates at Petronas Yamaha this season.

"I agree with Franco. I’m happy with what he said," responded Rossi.

"For sure real friendship is something very important for me, also because I always spend time and energy to have good friends. If you need to have a real friend and good friend, you have to work a little bit. It’s not easy!"

In reality, Rossi has been more than just a good friend to Morbidelli, also playing a major role in the younger Italian's career as the first and most successful member to date of the VR46 Academy.

"I’ve been very good friends with Franco for a long time. We worked together to bring him in MotoGP. I’m very happy to be his team-mate because it's a very interesting situation that nobody expected, me and him," Rossi said.

"For sure it will be hard to manage because - you know the team-mate is your first rival – so to fight and continue to be friends, you need to have a real friendship, a real relationship!

"So it will be not easy, but I think we can do. And I hope we can be both be competitive to try and win races."

Another familiar rider Rossi will be working closely with this season is Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman spent the first three years of his MotoGP career at Yamaha and is returning to the factory as test rider.

"We expect a strong support from Cal. Because Cal stopped just last year. He’s in a good shape. He rode a long time for Honda. He can give to Yamaha some advice. I want to speak with him after his first touch with the M1," Rossi said.

"I think that Cal can help a lot Yamaha. Also, I have a good relationship with Cal. So, I’m very happy to work with him.

"To be a test rider, it’s not easy. For sure you have to find the motivation to push to the limit of the bike also if you don’t race. This will be not easy for Cal. I hope he arrive with good motivation, with a good approach. He stopped just this winter so he’s in a good shape. This can make the difference, I think."

For their part, Rossi, Morbidelli and the other Academy members have been getting in shape for the season ahead at The Doctor's Moto Ranch in Tavullia.

While there are plenty of dirt track activities, at the age of 42 Rossi said that high-level respiratory work becomes increasingly important.

"Last year we didn’t know when we restart [after Covid lockdown] so it was a bit difficult to arrive at the first race at 100 percent. This year we can make the preparation more normal.

"When you become more old you have to work harder. Especially for the breathing. More work on cycling, more running and try and improve your high capacity.

"I feel good, I feel in a good shape and ready to start. But we need to wait for this first test. We’ll have 5 days on the bike and after this test we can have a more clear idea."

After a Shakedown on March 5, the Official Qatar test begins for all MotoGP riders on March 6.