Aprilia has shown good form all winter with its new RS-GP, with a number of riders – including reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo – praising the performance of the Italian marque’s bike.
And across the Qatar weekend, Espargaro was strong throughout, qualifying fifth and getting stuck into the podium battle.
Though he ultimately came up just nine tenths shy of a podium in fourth in last Sunday’s race, Espargaro feels he will now be able to fight at the front in 2022 – though admits “every weekend will be an exam” for Aprilia.
“I know it’s going to be an exam every single weekend for Aprilia because we have to reconfirm the best of the work,” he said.
“But we did it in Malaysia test, in Indonesia test, here in Qatar I think we did a strong weekend.
“I was alone with the bike in qualifying and pulling just 0.2s from pole, then the race I think I did one of the strongest ones.
“Unfortunately, the start wasn’t so good, so I lost time and I wasn’t able to finish – I’m not saying win, but yes second or third.
“But races are like this. I really had a lot of fun.
“It’s a pleasure to be able to fight with the best guys, to have the weapons to fight. It’s the first time in my career I feel like I had them, so it’s going to be a good season.”
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Espargaro added that he is “not really disappointed” to have come so close to a third career MotoGP podium, while noting that it was the “first time in my life” that he had the feelings in the race that he did.
“I’m not really disappointed,” he said.
“Yeah, I was looking for the podium. But the thing is, the feelings that I had in the race, it’s the first time in my life that I had them.
“I felt like I was the strongest one in terms of pace, but I was maybe too conservative with the laps that I did behind Marc [Marquez] and [Joan] Mir.
“I never expected that they [the leaders] will drop the pace like this, so I lost almost a full second with Joan and almost a full second with Marc.
“But anyway, I was able to do that fast lap and catch the group, but always I was too late and I was missing one lap to catch my brother.
“Races are like this, it’s good enough for the first race, but the most important thing is the pace we did. I did many laps in 1m54s half, which has been amazing.
“We saw the level was amazing, the race was very fast, and I’m very glad to say that we’ve been one of the strongest ones there.”