Factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden says he expects highly rated rookie Marc Marquez to be competitive immediately when the new MotoGP season kicks off in Qatar in early April.
Marquez will replace retired double MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner at Repsol Honda in 2013 and several high profile rivals have tipped the teenager to make an instant impact.
The latest is American Nicky Hayden, who gave his thoughts on the potential of the reigning Moto2 world champion during Ducati’s annual team launch at the Madonna di Campiglio ski resort in Italy earlier this week.
The 2006 world champion said: “You don't need me to tell you that he (Marquez) will be very competitive even at Qatar because of the amount of talent he has. And he is in a good team. Marc will be good for MotoGP as a young talent and everyone is excited to see what he can do. With Casey exiting it is important to have another star with that type of potential to see what he changes. He has a lot of talent and he is very brave so let's see what he can get away with in MotoGP and how fast he will be. I think he'll be a problem from round one."
This year’s MotoGP world championship could see the podium regularly dominated by Spanish talent, with reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa clear pre-season favourites for the 2013 crown.
The pair won 13 out of 18 races last season and Lorenzo took the title at the penultimate round in Australia in October when Pedrosa crashed out contention in the early stages at Phillip Island.
Hayden, who will be joined by Andrea Dovizioso in Ducati’s official factory squad this season, added: “The Spanish are making it difficult. Jorge and Dani made a great championship last year and they are pushing each other. What Dani did in the second half of the championship last year, I hope he doesn't start this season with that same form because he did a great job. And Lorenzo won the championship, so it’s definitely setting the bar for us.”