Jorge Lorenzo says he is under no pressure to beat Valentino Rossi to this year's world championship as he is still only at a learning stage of his MotoGP career.
The Spaniard has emerged as his Yamaha teammate's closest title rival, although Rossi's victories in their recent dices – mostly notably at Catalunya and the Sachsenring – have helped the reigning champion pull out a 14-point lead in the standings.
"Everybody knows he is a very tough rider to beat," Lorenzo told AUTOSPORT. "He has 10 years of experience in this category, he knows the Yamaha better than me and he has won more than 100 races and eight titles, so to beat him you have to be faster than him and more clever, and this is not easy.
"Every race you fight with a rider like Valentino is another experience. He can beat you one time, two times, three times, but if you keep working then there is one day that you will beat him, so I am taking my time to win. That's no pressure for me, I am learning to win."
He said he was surprised to even be in the title hunt given his poor form in winter testing, where he took time to get up to speed on Bridgestones following Michelin's exit.
"In the beginning I did not expect to win because I had some difficulties to adapt to the Bridgestone tire," Lorenzo insisted. "But we came to Qatar and I finished third, and in Japan I won. From there the results have been good and I am learning, I'm not winning but I am learning how to win."
Although Lorenzo does not think he has enough experience to be considered a threat to Rossi yet, he felt he has taken great strides this year, especially in his response to accidents. Whereas his rookie year descended into a string of crashes, he was able to shrug off a massive qualifying high-side at Laguna Seca and finish third next day.
"The change of riding style to suit the Bridgestone has given me more confidence," he said. "Also I'm a little bit more older and experienced, and learned from the crashes. I learned from experience that sometimes it's better not to take risks, to finish second and to win some points."
But he added that he was not yet fully recovered from the Laguna crash, which left him with shoulder and foot injuries.
"I am not feeling 100 percent, I have some pain in the collar bone but every day I improve my physical condition," said Lorenzo. "I can do weights, I am much better than after Laguna. It was tough to do the race distance with the pain, but I could win so I tried to win."
Lorenzo's future is currently a major topic in the MotoGP paddock. At the Sachsenring last weekend he hinted that he was unhappy with the current offer from Yamaha, which is understood to be lower than what he has been offered by Honda.
"When you are competitive it's normal that everyone wants to be with you," he said. "Now I feel very comfortable on the Yamaha. I feel like maybe they have the best bike in the championship, so I would like to continue.
"But the point is, do they really want me, or is there another brand that wants me more than Yamaha?"