The Spaniard currently holds third in the championship rankings and is mathematically unable to secure the Rider Title, with a 50-point gap to first place and two races to spare. Instead he will be pushing to claim second place in the standings by bridging the 17-point gap to the rider ahead of him in the rankings.
Teammate Rossi also rode a strong race in Australia and clawed back crucial championship points to climb back up to fourth place in the overall classification, 31 points behind his teammate. This weekend the Italian hopes to be an even bigger threat at the front of the rider field in Sepang.
The Doctor aims to put his experience at the Malaysian track to good use again this weekend. So far, he stood on the Sepang podium 12 times in his career and he will give his all to repeat his previous successes. He secured a 500cc class race victory here in 2001 and claimed MotoGP victories in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010. Additionally, he also visited the rostrum in 2002, 2005, 2014 and 2016 when he scored second place, and in 2009 and 2015 when he took third.
The Sepang International Circuit was built in just 14 months and held its first Grand Prix in 1999. The track is known to host some of the most exciting races thanks to its combination slow and medium to high-speed corners (five left, ten right), and two long straights (the longest measuring 920 m). However, it's not just the circuit's lay-out that provides challenges when it comes to setting up the bikes. The laps are relatively long, thanks to the circuit's total length of 5.5 km. Add to this extremely hot and humid conditions, and you've got one of the most testing rounds on the MotoGP calendar.
"After the podium in Australia we are very motivated to go to Malaysia, it's a circuit with very different climate conditions to those we've had on Phillip Island and in Japan - it's always very hot and that makes it a very physically demanding race. The bike is working very good now, so it's a little bit disappointing to arrive in Sepang without the mathematical possibility to win the title, but now securing second place in the standings is our target. We have to try to be as strong as we were at the beginning of the season and be on the podium again in Sepang. We will work hard to achieve it."
"We need to stay modest after the race in Australia. We have worked well and we have taken another step forward, I'm happy about this, but we still have a lot to do. Going straight to Malaysia is important. I don't expect anything, but we will work hard to make it another nice race. It's a track that I like a lot and I hope for good weather, so we'll be able to work in the best way possible. I'm physically okay, in the next few days I'll rest and next Friday I'll be ready for another weekend."
"Sunday at Phillip Island was a very good day for us. Not only did both our riders finish on the podium, but we also managed to book some progress with the bike. This weekend we hope to keep building on this at the Malaysian GP, especially with regard to the future. The round in Sepang is always the end of the triple-header and therefore all the more challenging. The riders and team members arrive here after two weeks of non-stop work and will have to cope with the humidity and hot temperatures that are physically demanding. Nevertheless, the whole team will again put in the maximum effort to get top results. Our riders are in great shape and highly motivated after Sunday's podium, so we are looking forward to meet the Malaysian fans and start work on Friday."