Marc Marquez could be accused of being a master of the obvious after telling media after testing ended Thursday at Sepang that Maverick Vinales already is quicker than his new Yamaha factory teammate, seven-time premier class World Champion Valentino Rossi.
The timesheets verify Marquez’s claim. Vinales was the quickest rider overall in the three-day test, turning a top lap Thursday of 1 minute, 59.368 seconds. Vinales was one of 10 riders to lap in the 1:59 range, a group that also included Rossi and Marquez.
But Vinales ripped off 10 laps in the 1:59s, while Marquez did it three times on his Honda and Rossi just once on his Yamaha. Cal Crutchlow was No. 2 on the 1:59 hit list, turning four laps at that pace.
So Marquez took the chance after the test to compliment Vinales and stick a diplomatic blade into Rossi’s brain as the mental battle between the two World Champions already is underway in 2017.
“I think (Vinales) is ready to fight for the championship, and to win it,” Marquez told Italian paper Gazzetta dello Sport. “So are Valentino and Pedrosa. Lorenzo is struggling but he’s on his first days (with Ducati). I think the Yamahas will be the hardest to beat in the fight for the title.
“Maverick is riding very fast and feels very comfortable with the Yamaha, but when the championship starts it’s all different. I don’t know if he will be a bigger threat (than Rossi), because Valentino has more experience, and he’s hungry. He’s in front every Sunday.
“In any case, in terms of speed I see Maverick as the stronger rider.”