Stefan Bradl is moving closer to notching up the first podium of his MotoGP burgeoning career after just missing out on the rostrum in a hard-fought scrap with Andrea Dovizioso at Mugello.
The reigning Moto2 champion has been in fine form aboard the LCR Honda since making the switch to the premier class, but while he was impressive on his way to the top five on home soil at the Sachsenring a week ago, he gave his glowing reputation a further boost with an even feistier performance in Italy.
Getting away well to run with the leaders initially, Bradl lapped in fourth place early on before pouncing on third place man Andrea Dovizioso at the start of lap ten, where he proceeded to remain for the ensuing 11 laps.
However, while Bradl did well to resist the more experienced Dovizioso for some time, the Italian would move back past with three laps remaining and defend strongly to the chequered flag.
Even so, Bradl did show his fighting spirit when Nicky Hayden slipped by at turn one on the final lap, the German retorting with an immediate re-pass to confirm his fourth place finish.
Marking his best result of the season, and LCR Honda's highest finish since the 2010 Catalunya Grand Prix, Bradl was delighted to take another step forward.
“It's a fantastic feeling for me and the whole team,” he said. “Doubtless a podium finish would have been simply perfect, but I am extremely happy about this great result on this track. I think that our bike was perfect from the beginning of the race because in the last couple of races we struggled a bit too much with a full fuel tank and could not feel the front tyre properly, but here we made a different set-up.
“It worked perfectly on this special layout but at the end of the race I missed a bit of front-end feeling on braking. So I preferred to stay calm and Dovi passed me, but after that I was trying to follow him and it was pretty easy for me.
“Then Hayden put in a brave move on me but he didn't have the best exit on the right corner and I could pass him again. Probably my manoeuvre looked a bit aggressive on TV, but I think it was normal for a last lap.
“Being so close to the podium is fantastic and I feel happy for the team: they support me in the best way every weekend and especially Lucio. He is a hard worker and with this great result I want to give him something back.”
Bradl is currently seventh in the overall standings, splitting the two factory Ducati riders - seven points behind Valentino Rossi and one point ahead of Nicky Hayden.