Valentino Rossi is confident that he would have won Sunday's Qatar MotoGP even without the turn one mistake by Marc Marquez.
Reigning double MotoGP champion Marquez lost out to the Ducati or Andrea Dovizioso and his own Repsol Honda tem-mate Dani Pedrosa in qualifying, but looked the rider to beat for the race.
However the young Spaniard was forced to lift his RC213V and run wide to avoid clipping the back of Bradley Smith at the first corner.
The incident dropped Marquez to the back of the 25-rider field, but he had recovered to fifth positon by the midway stage with a gap of around four-seconds to the leading quartet of Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone and Rossi.
While Rossi worked his way through the lead group and took a thrilling win over Dovizioso, Marquez remained in fifth, crossing the line seven seconds from victory.
Marquez was also only ranked fifth in terms of fastest race lap and, although he hadn't yet seen the turn one incident, Rossi felt he would still have won. The #46 cited last year's Le Mans race as an example of how Marquez can ride through the field when he has the pace for victory.
“I say yes, but I don't see how much Marc lost,” Rossi replied, when asked if he would still have won. “Last year in Le Mans, Marc was twelfth, he overtook everybody, he arrived to me, overtook me and continued to go. Like he was cruising.
“Had one moment [tonight] when Marc was behind me, but after was not enough for the pace [to catch me]. But to answer that in a perfect way, I have to see the race, because I see just in front of me, so it's a little bit difficult to understand.”
Marquez finished one place in front of team-mat Dani Pedrosa, who also started on the front row and was expected to be in victory contention. Pedrosa later revealed arm pump problems but the apparent lack of pace for the factory RCV riders was one of the biggest upsets on Sunday.
“For me the race of the two Hondas is a surprise, because I expected Dani very strong, but especially Marc,” Rossi added. “Sincerely, when I saw him arriving behind me on my board, and after I saw come back Andrea, I thought maybe Marc has crashed because during the practice he has always a good pace.
“But [Marquez] did not crash, and it is better, because it means that in the second half of the race, we were faster.”
Marquez said it was tough to know how his race would have ended without the error.
“On the last two laps Valentino and Dovi pushed a lot but you never know because when you are there you can manage the tyres, slow down a little bit and it is different. I felt I was ready to fight for the victory but now it is too late.”
Rossi, the oldest rider on the grid at 36, believes the balance of power between Honda, Yamaha and Ducati will change from circuit to circuit.
“This level, between Honda Ducati and Yamaha, will change every week in the different race track, because every bike has weak and strong points. So to try to stay in front in the championship we have to stay concentrated to try to understand what is the right day to try to win, but especially to keep some points in the difficult weekends at the difficult circuit.
“We will enjoy this moment, for sure we will with the team, because coming from a not fantastic test and practice, but next race will be Austin, and is the 'home' of Marquez, and will be very hard.”