Danilo Petrucci believes his performance through the French MotoGP weekend was a timely reminder of his talents, as he finished an impressive seventh in his first race appearance of 2016.
The Italian was sidelined after the first round in Qatar in March, where a premature comeback from a broken right hand did further damage, forcing him to watch the first four races of the year on television.
In what Petrucci described as “one of the hardest periods of my career” on Thursday, his rehabilitation included plenty of physical activity, but none of that was on a bike – “not even my scooter!”
A solid weekend followed in France, despite the physical exertion, and Petrucci raced to an impressive seventh place, staying upright amid a litany of crashes, to claim not only his first points of the year, but to remind the paddock that he is deserving of a place in a competitive team for 2017.
“It was funny because on Thursday night I came back and was thinking, 'Tomorrow. Who knows if I can do one lap,'” said an exhausted 25-year old after the race.
“At the end it was a good weekend. This year the rumours about the next year start even before the first race. This makes a lot of pressure to every rider. So I'm happy to come back and show that I'm still here. I want I want to stay a little closer to the front.
“I was a little bit lucky today. But it was very difficult to stay up. You see after five or six laps the front tyre start to close and there were a lot of crashes. Most of all in the same places. I was constantly slower but at the end I was quite fast.
"I did my best time with three laps to go. I fought at the beginning with [Eugene] Laverty then with [Hector] Barbera. Every laps the distance to the rider behind was 0.6, 0.7, 0.6, 0.8 with a maximum of distance of one second. I say, 'Oh! It's getting further!' But then one lap later, 0.7!”
Petrucci had medical treatment on the hand after each session, and said the toll of 28 consecutive laps began to tell soon into the race.
“Every lap was difficult because I miss so many races and when I did one mistake I made a mistake in every corner. It was difficult with the head. Since waking up this morning, I've felt very tired and I haven't ridden anything since February. Not even my scooter!
“I crash in February. Then I did two sessions in Qatar. Then on Friday morning I ride something. I'd like to thank all of my team that's been close to me even when I was at home. With some changes I have a good bike. Still, I'm not happy with the pace because at the beginning and in the first half of the race I was not so fast. Without any tests and without [competing in] four races we finish in the top ten.”
The Italian was a surprising second fastest in the first preseason test of 2016 at Sepang, and is benefiting from full factory support in this campaign. Thus he feels there is more to come, and believes Mugello may not be as demanding on the recovering hand in just under two weeks time.
“I want a little bit more. We know we can stay closer to the others in front so we'll keep working. At Mugello, my home race, the circuit maybe helps me a little bit and I have to do the second test of the season. I'm quite happy with the rest of the day.”