Valentino Rossi arrives in Portimao with just four points to show for his opening races as a Petronas Yamaha rider, a twelfth place in the opening Qatar round being followed by just 16th (from 21st on the grid) in follow-up event.

While happy to be back in Europe, the Italian expects a weekend of hard work lies ahead in Portimao, as he seeks to close the Qatar gap at a track where the best of the Factory-spec Yamahas (Maverick Vinales) only finished eleventh and 18-seconds from victory last November.

"I'm happy to be back in Europe because everything is more easy and we start from Portimao that is a fantastic track but also very difficult, with a lot of ups and downs," said Rossi, who crossed the finish line just behind Vinales on his factory Yamaha team farewell.

"The start of the season was not fantastic for me, we are not strong like we want, so we need to work hard and try to be faster from this weekend."

While it came too late to have much impact on his race, Rossi made an improvement during warm-up for the final Doha round, an area he will continue to explore this weekend.

"Yes, on the Sunday we improved because mainly we changed something in the electronics, especially for the entry to the corner. And I feel better, I improved my pace and I was able to ride in a better way," said The Doctor.

"It was not enough, I expected to be stronger in the race, but anyway it was an improvement. So we will continue along that point of view."

With the Factory team machines of Vinales and Quartararo each winning a race in Qatar, Rossi was asked if they were using anything different to his machine.

"About Quartararo, Vinales and the Factory team I don’t know what they have," he replied.

"I think that we have to work on the setting and all the small details, the way to ride the bike. And anyway, every race track is very different and Portimao is very different from Qatar."

Likewise, Rossi is not aware of any significant difference in riding style and instead believes it's down to fine-tuning the details.

"What we see on the data is that every [Yamaha] rider has his own style. It's normal that they are all similar, but different. So we try to work on the bike, on the setting, on the different parts, but we also work always a lot on the riding style.

"All the engineers try to give important advice to improve the way to brake, the way to turn and everything. We will try also this weekend."

With only two races having passed since MotoGP was last in Portimao, Rossi feels dominant home winner Miguel Oliveira again starts as the rider to beat.

"Looking at last year Oliveira was absolutely the man to beat because starting from pole position and the race was a domination, also with the fastest lap. So I think he is the number one favourite," Rossi said. "But also Franco and Jack Miller were strong in the last race of last year."

Rossi's team-mate Morbidelli continues to use the A-Spec bike from last year, while the Factory-Spec now has a new chassis that behaves closer to Morbidelli's bike than in 2020.

And what about the returning Marc Marquez?

"There is a lot of expectation because everybody wants to understand his level, his feeling with his body. But I think he's in great shape and I think he will be strong from tomorrow morning," Rossi said.

Finally, Rossi was asked about a recent interview his girlfriend Francesca Novello gave to Vanity Fair, in which she spoke of chauvinism in the paddock.

"I like the interview because she spoke very directly and tried to explain what's happened, in this case in the paddock, but I think [it's like this] in a lot of different places, no?" he said.

"So it's good what she said, [but] it's normal that when you say something like this, especially in this moment, everybody tries to push more to what she said. She said just that when you make that work - in this case the umbrella girl in the paddock, but also a lot of work that beautiful girls make, like at the motorshow or fashion shows - you need to be smart and strong because have a lot of boys around. You have to be strong enough to manage the situation.

"But I'm very happy she was an umbrella girl because if not I wouldn't have met her! So I was very lucky."