He eventually started picking his way through the pack, ending up eighth having been pipped by his Aprilia-mounted brother Aleix by 0.056 seconds on the run to the finish line.
Espargaro says his front tyre was “really damaged” by the time he found his brother on the track but insists being beaten by the Aprilia is “not important” having ended up just 5.9s away from victory despite the time lost during his steady start to the race.
“I was recovering and overtaking guys during all the race,” he said. “I was 12th in the second lap and I finished eighth. So, I needed to overtake guys almost every lap.
“And then when I arrived to Aleix I tried, but the tyre was really damaged and the problem was I was gaining on the brakes normally, but then the front was very bad.
“Then I tried to [pass] on the straight. If it had been half a lap more, or one straight in between a little bit longer, I would do it.
“But the problem was I came too late and I arrived at 50 milliseconds [behind]. But I think that’s not important. What is important I think is we arrived at 5.9s [from the win], we lose three seconds in the first and second lap.
“So this is good, I wanted to be more in front but it’s good, the result is super-interesting. Even if I was very bad at the beginning we arrive at 5.9s [from first].
“So, I’m angry with the result because it’s eighth, it’s not nice, the points are not good. But in [the picture] of the race, of the day, it’s amazing. So next race I’m going to go for it.”
Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Espargaro says he learned more about the Honda during the 20-lap race than he did throughout testing and practice in Qatar and is adamant he can bring home better results with a strong qualifying performance.
“I think I’ve learned more in that race than the whole time I spent on the bike in the test or here in the race weekend,” he added.
“So, the race was very important, I learned a lot. Many problems I faced during the weekend I improved by the race.
“So, I’m proud with the job we have done, but still if we want to get our target which is fighting for the title, next race we cannot be in eighth place, we need to be a little bit higher.
“I know this will be difficult, but after the knowledge we get, we just need a better time attack on Saturday.
“This is super important, and then if I can do that, I can stay in the first rows, I think we can do a good job.”