MotoGP legend Valentino Rossi believes that Suzuki young gun Maverick Vinales would be as strong a teammate as Jorge Lorenzo if he was to replace him at Yamaha next year.
Speaking in Austin on Friday, Rossi said he now rates Vinales in the same bracket as Lorenzo, Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and Ducati’s Andrea Iannone.
When asked if he would accept him as a teammate, should Lorenzo join Ducati as rumoured, he replied: “Yeah, for me no problem. It’s not a big difference if Lorenzo remains, or if Vinales comes – or also Iannone or Pedrosa, I don’t know.
“What’s true for sure with Vinales he will be very hard, he’s very young. I think that he will become one of the top riders of MotoGP very soon.”
Rossi rates Vinales/Suzuki combination
On the back of impressive pre-season testing performances, Vinales started the season by qualifying on the front row in Qatar before slipping back to sixth. Already in Qatar, Rossi spoke of his admiration for Vinales.
Vinales crashed out in Argentina after hitting a damp patch, but believed he should have finished second behind Marc Marquez.
“I think that Vinales has demonstrated that he can stay with the top guys for all the season,” said Rossi. “We’ve been in very different tracks, and the Suzuki with him has been very strong.
“He rides so well, he’s a clever rider and he understands the way to use the MotoGP. Together with his bike, they are growing up a lot.
“Suzuki is a very good chassis, and it’s similar to a Honda when you follow – very reactive, very precise.
“Last year they had a big disadvantage with the engine, but it looks like they improve a lot. It’s a good bike. But, in this case, Vinales is faster than [Aleix] Espargaro. So it means he finds a way to ride the bike at the maximum.”