Movistar Yamaha team rider Valentino Rossi was full of praise for his team after claiming a podium in the season-opening MotoGP race in Qatar on Sunday.

The 38-year-old Italian, who started the race in 10th place on the grid, fought his way up the field to finish third behind Ducati's Andrea Dovizioso and race winner, Yamaha teammate Maverick Vinales.

Rossi, who had struggled throughout the winter testing, said in an interview after Sunday's race, that the improved feeling with the front-end of his YZR-M1 was the difference during the race at the Losail International Circuit.

"To start the season with a podium is always great, and it is better than last year," said Rossi. "I arrived from a difficult period with a very bad winter test, especially from November, from Valencia when I tried the new bike, I never felt good.

"I have to say a great thank you to Yamaha and all my team because in all this period I always feel great support and great trust in me. Also, the situation was quite critical, so something changed from Thursday to Friday because on Thursday, we still have the same problems that I had during all the tests and it was very frustrating.

"But Friday was better and I started to improve, so from that moment I was quite optimistic to arrive in the first five. But Saturday we don't ride and the warm-up was very difficult but especially for me, I suffered very much with the high temperatures, the 10 degrees that we had more in the daytime, I felt the tyre after three corners," he added.

"These conditions in the race were a help for me and it was better. We improved the setting, especially to give me good stability for entry and also my team made a good modification for the front and I was stronger in braking."

Rossi added that he was very happy to take third place overall rather than risk a costly mistake trying to challenge Dovizioso for second spot.

"I enjoyed very much and I saw Maverick for all the race and that never happened in all the tests. In the end, I hoped that Dovi was more in trouble with the soft rear but I was also in trouble with the front, so if I arrived there and pushed and made a mistake, I would be very angry so for me, this podium is very important."

The next MotoGP race is scheduled for April 9 in Argentina at the Rio Hondo Circuit.