Australian Grand Prix poleman Marc Marquez has branded Andrea Iannone as “favourite” to take victory in Sunday's 27-lap MotoGP race, and says the Italian is “faster than everybody”.
Newly-crowned five-times world champion Marquez blitzed the field in a tricky Phillip Island qualifying with a 1:29.199s to claim his fifth-straight pole at the track, while Suzuki's Iannone heads the second row in fourth.
Iannone topped Friday's running at Phillip Island, and set the pace in FP4 prior to qualifying while also putting in an impressive race run on his GSX-RR.
Marquez says he is now “equal” on race pace with his main rivals after a tough Friday, but believes Iannone is “faster than everybody”.
When asked who is favourite ahead of the race, the Honda rider said: “Iannone. His pace is faster.”
He added: “For some reason all Hondas struggle at the start here, but then step-by-step we did a really good job with the team, with all Japanese staff, and step-by-step we improve our feeling and now it looks like I'm very equal on the race pace with the others.
“Just, there is one rider that is faster than everybody, that is Iannone. But tomorrow in the race we will see, will be interesting to choose the best rear tyre.
“Apart from that, here in Phillip Island is quite a long race, quite difficult, you have to manage the temperature of the tyres, especially the front one and tomorrow we will try to fight for the podium.”
Iannone held the best laptime of the weekend ahead of qualifying with his 1:29.131s from FP2 but could only manage fourth in Q2 in the tricky conditions, six tenths from pole.
Feeling he “had a better chance” at pole, Iannone nevertheless believes he is “a bit stronger” on race pace and expects a “good battle” with Marquez, Yamaha's Maverick Vinales and Suzuki teammate Alex Rins.
“The conditions in qualifying were really bad, so it was really difficult,” he said.
“I’m not very happy because I had a better chance and better performance and it could have been possible to challenge for pole.
“Unfortunately, it’s like this. In any case, we have good pace for the race. The bike is really good.
We’ve worked well during the weekend. But I’m disappointed for qualifying, though it wasn’t possible to control the weather.
“Everybody is really fast so, tomorrow, in warm-up the top riders will improve a little bit. We’ll be there, we’ll try to improve but we’ll be arriving on the limit.
“The most important thing is to control the tyres during the race because the last five laps are really important, so we have to arrive with the tyre in good condition.
“There will be a good battle with Marc, Viñales, Rins will stay with us, so, in any case, it’ll be a strong race but I’m a little bit stronger.”