Buenos Aires - Valentino Rossi races in a record-setting
350th grand prix in Argentina on Sunday determined to prove that at 38 he will
not be overshadowed by team-mate Maverick Vinales, who blitzed the
season-opener in Qatar.
Rossi, a nine-time world champion, was third in the rain and
wind of the Qatari desert after starting from 10th on the grid on a weekend
when Vinales, 16 years his junior, dominated on his first outing for Yamaha.
"It wasn't an easy start to the championship but I was
very happy to be able to get on the podium," said Rossi.
"Now we go to Argentina. This is a track that I like
very much and I'm happy to go there. I hope that there are good asphalt
conditions because last year it was difficult for us."
Rossi came home in second place at the dusty and hot Termas
de Rio Hondo circuit in Argentina last year having taken victory 12 months
But his former teammate Jorge Lorenzo, whose decision to
move to Ducati opened the door for Vinales at Yamaha, believes that the flying
Spaniard could end up making Rossi feel his age this season.
"It's nothing easy for Valentino to keep racing MotoGP
at his age," Lorenzo told www.motorsports.com.
"The second oldest rider is maybe 32, and he's 38. I
guess when you become 38 every season is tougher than the one before; that's
something Rossi recognises himself. You don't see many 38-year-olds as fast as
"It's not something easy and even less when you have an
outstanding and strong teammate like Maverick."
However, former Suzuki pilot Vinales, who became the second
youngest rider to win in the premier class for two different manufacturers,
just behind Mike Hailwood with his Qatar triumph, recognises that he is already
a marked man.
"We have the difficult challenge to continue getting
good results, Qatar was only the first race of 18," said the Spaniard.
"I can feel the pressure a little bit because the level
of my rivals is very high, but that motivates me even more to keep working
hard. We have to be cautious, work step by step and race by race."
The Argentina race is also a key test for defending world
champion Marc Marquez after the Spaniard managed just fourth place in Qatar on
"I must fight for the podium," said the Spaniard,
a two-time winner at the race and world champion in 2013, 2014 and 2016.