Mamola column: Is Rossi set for a painful MotoGP season?

Valentino Rossi has not enjoyed the best of pre-seasons and was overshadowed by Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales. Could the Italian be set for a painful year, wonders Randy Mamola.

Mamola column: Is Rossi set for a painful MotoGP season?
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing; Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Maverick Viñales, Yamaha Factory Racing
Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

If the biggest conclusion for pre-season testing is all about the fight between Marc Marquez and Maverick Vinales, there are some other unanswered questions, like how Valentino Rossi will perform after a winter nowhere near the front.

We'll have to wait until next Sunday to find out, but now we are going to analyse some facts that seem to be irrefutable.

First, Vinales' arrival in the Yamaha garage shocked Rossi. After years of a controversial relationship, tension surely lifted when Lorenzo announced he was leaving for Ducati.

However, if Vinales performs at the same high level he showed during the pre-season, friction in the Yamaha garage will come back for sure.

Rossi is an experienced rider in this racing business and, as seen in the past, he proved he knows all the tricks. That makes us wonder if the weakness he has shown is real, or if we'll be surprised by the Italian once the season has started.

We have yet to confirm that, but if there is anything clear for me is that Vinales will play a leading role this season, something that may have an influence over his new teammate, the same rider who is supposed to be his biggest rival on track.

Maverick didn't even crash in the whole 11 days of official testing, while Marquez and Rossi actually did. Furthermore, the Spaniard did a total of seven times and five of them came last time out in Qatar less than two weeks ago.

We may conclude from these facts that Vinales forced Marquez to take bigger risks and that may also increase the pressure between the two riders, something that could benefit the championship.

Marquez, 24, is 14 years younger than Rossi. The Italian is aware of his own age, also of how much crashes hurt, so that could likely be an advantage for younger riders.

Current MotoGP riders don't rest due to an intense calendar that doesn't leave too long between battles; it's something completely different from my era.

The height of rivalries is bigger, they're more aggressive and physically strong, all needed to ride on the limit.

It's worth looking back at last season and reviewing The Doctor's performance. He won at Jerez and Barcelona, two of the rounds everyone else struggled a lot on Michelin tyres.

On a low-grip track surface, Rossi is an old master opening the throttle; that's why he did so well.

However, Michelin tyres improved their compounds for 2017, something that may now play against Rossi.

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