Aleix Espargaro expects to be in a position to begin seriously challenging for the MotoGP podium on the Suzuki within the next few rounds of the championship.

Espargaro has finished fifth in the last two races on the GSX-RR and has hailed Suzuki's dramatic progress with the bike this season.

The Spaniard's own performances have been overshadowed somewhat by the hype surrounding his young team-mate Maverick Vinales, but Espargaro is only a point behind Vinales in the championship standings as they occupy sixth and seventh positions respectively.

"It was very difficult at the start of this season, especially Qatar was one of the worst weekends I can remember. Then we started to improve in Argentina and the last two rounds especially were really good," said Espargaro.

"We managed to finish in two very important fifth places, especially the last race in Jerez was the one where we finished closer to the podium guys and we saw a really good pace. I'm happy with the progression and we will try to keep improving like this.

"I feel that the Suzuki is working stronger every single race. We are receiving new stuff and the engineers are working a lot harder and we can see that the GSX-R is improving a lot - not enough to fight for the podium, but much closer," he added.

"On the last weekend we were more faster than the Ducatis and quite close to Yamaha and Honda, so we will try to reconfirm in the next rounds. We are still not ready to fight with the top guys, but we are really close."

Espargaro feels he may be in a position to start pushing for the top three by the time Catalunya in Barcelona hosts round seven on June 5.

"Suzuki is making progress and in the first race Maverick showed a really good potential and in the last two races we were in the top five, but you cannot fight for the podium from one day to another," he said.

"Also the top guys are very fast also and the three top brands have more time and experience than us.

"But we are more closer than ever and it's clear the bike is closer than ever: I don't remember when Suzuki MotoGP fight to be so close to the podium and not even far from Marc [Marquez]," Espargaro added.

"We need time and we have two or three tests in the next month and I think in Barcelona we can be closer and think on the podium."

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