Pol Espargaro admitted his Spanish MotoGP qualifying performance left a bitter sweet taste as he narrowly missed out on a front row start.

The Tech 3 Yamaha rider was on course for a top-three time on his flying lap until a mistake in the third sector meant he could place no higher than fourth.

With team-mate Bradley Smith struggling throughout the weekend to recreate his early season speed, Espargaro was as high as second in Saturday morning's FP3 session before qualifying on the front of the second row.

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"I am super happy with my performance today and it was a positive day overall for us," said Espargaro. "We had two sets of new tyres for Q2 which meant that we opted to do two runs only. During the second, my first lap was really strong but unfortunately, I made a slight mistake and ran wide in the third sector of the circuit.

"Everything is so tight in this championship so even the smallest of mistakes can cost you a lot of positions. Therefore, the result leaves a bit of a bitter sweat taste in my mouth as I could have been on the front row, but at the same time I am very happy, especially after the tricky qualifying that we had in Argentina.

"I am definitely looking forward to the race tomorrow even though we all know that factors usually change a bit overnight. Valentino is behind us and of course he will have a strong showing, but we intend to have a good start and then stay with the guys in front."

While Espargaro spoke of his preference for the harder rear tyre on Friday afternoon, Saturday's shakedown provided more data for the softer option. The 24-year admitted he is yet to make his final decision.

"The key for tomorrow will be tyre management especially in these incredibly hot conditions, but I am very excited to be racing again in my home country."