Rossi "very happy, very worried" about Bagnaia, Morbidelli

Valentino Rossi says he is “very happy” yet also “very worried” about taking on VR46 Academy riders Franco Morbidelli and Francesco Bagnaia in MotoGP this year.

Rossi "very happy, very worried" about Bagnaia, Morbidelli

The two graduates of seven-time champion Rossi's junior programme have been tipped to make an impact in the premier-class this year, with Morbidelli switching to a near factory-spec satellite Yamaha and rookie 'Pecco' Bagnaia handed a Ducati GP18.

Both riders were ahead of their mentor in the combined classification in last week's three-day pre-season test at Sepang.

“You know, when we start with the project of the academy, with Pecco, with Franco, we don't expect this problem, we don't expect that our rider arrive to fight with me,” Rossi said.

“So from one side we are very worried, I am very worried.

“From the other side we are very happy because in the academy we work well. We help riders that maybe can beat me.

“But we cannot go back, it's like this,” he joked.

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Petronas SRT rider Morbidelli was no lower than eighth overall in all three of his tests on the Yamaha so far, the M1 bike allowing him to run much closer to the front than the Marc VDS Honda he rode in his first season.

Morbidelli said he would draw extra motivation from going up against Rossi in 2019.

“Fighting with Vale, it's always nice. It's an extreme source of motivation, not just for me but for everybody,” Morbidelli said.

“Having a legend in front of you or on track with you gives you strength and gives you motivation to do better. So, it just feels good.”

Pramac recruit Bagnaia, who succeeded Morbidelli as Moto2 champion last year, made headlines in the Sepang test as he finished just 0.063s adrift of works Ducati rider Danilo Petrucci's track-record pace.

“I think great, is impressive, in the hot lap is fantastic, my congratulation,” Rossi said of Bagnaia, before quipping: “I hope that in the [race] pace is a bit more slow.”

He continued: “If you imagine that he's always fast in the test and make [1m]58.3[s], considering the small amount of experience, is quite impressive. I think we have to keep attention to him.”

Morbidelli likewise paid tribute to Bagnaia's performance, saying: “Pecco was super fast, what can I say? Congratulations to him, he's an impressive talent.”

Additional reporting by Oriol Puigdemont and Scherazade Mulia Saraswati

Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing

Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing
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Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing

Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing
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Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing

Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing
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Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing, Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing

Maverick Vinales, Yamaha Factory Racing, Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing
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Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing

Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac Racing
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Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT

Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT
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Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT

Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT
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Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT

Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT
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Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT

Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT
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Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT

Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT
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Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
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Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing
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Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

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Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

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Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

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Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Valentino Rossi, Yamaha Factory Racing

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