Aleix Espargaro is confident he would have been able to maintain a front-running pace during the 2014 MotoGP World Championship opener in Qatar had he not hampered his chances with a qualifying spill.
Though his headline-grabbing pace on the Open-specification Forward Yamaha during pre-season testing had led most to believe Espargaro was destined for a strong showing during the Qatar Grand Prix opener, his sheer dominance of free practice raised expectations of a pole position challenge at least.
However, two crashes during qualifying scuppered those hopes, the Spaniard accepting that nerves had a part to play in him failing to live up to expectations when it mattered.
“I am pleased with how things began, topping those first three practice sessions and maintaining a good rhythm all weekend-long,” he told the official MotoGP.com
website. “Perhaps thanks to the nerves (and it being my first big opportunity to clinch pole position), I made two big errors in qualifying.
“That meant I started much further back on Sunday and, on top of that, I had destroyed both of my bikes; I therefore had to race with a rebuilt bike and it didn't feel very comfortable.
Indeed, though Espargaro was able to turn his fortunes back around for race day with a charging run to a career-best fourth position, he remains certain that he could have matched the pace of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi at the front of the field had he not started down the order.
“I managed to calm myself down for the race to finish fourth and pick up 13 points. It is clear that the rest could have been so much better had it not been for those two critical mistakes in qualifying.
“I do think I would have been battling with them if I had started further up the grids. Over the race my pace was similar to Marc (Marquez) and Valentino (Rossi), but I was stuck amongst the Ducatis and losing ten to 15 kilometres per hour to them down the straight.
“If I had started with the front-runners, I would have been able to make up for that loss of straight-line speed by getting in the slipstream. Anyway…I did make those errors on Saturday and I paid the price, which was a shame. We'll just have to try and go for it again in Texas.”