Prior to late-race bike swaps Andrea Dovizioso was in with a fighting chance of Ducati's first race win since 2010, at Sunday's German MotoGP.
The Italian took over the lead when Pramac's Danilo Petrucci fell on lap 11 and, despite feeling he should have gone for the harder front tyre, remained just ahead of the pursuing pack until the drying track forced him to pit on lap 23 of 30.
Rivals Valentino Rossi, Cal Crutchlow and Hector Barbera pulled in at the same time, but a much earlier pit stop by Marc Marquez allowed the Honda rider to sweep past them to victory.
Returning with a front intermediate and rear slick combo, Dovizioso was overtaken by Crutchlow (slicks) but able to claim the final podium place with a last lap pass on Scott Redding.
It was the first time since the Qatar season opener that Dovizioso has finished on the rostrum.
“Happy but also disappointed because in the wet condition also I maybe take a wrong decision,” Dovizioso said. “I decide on the extra soft front, but I was able to save the tyre and to keep two seconds from the second riders.
“I was so focused on trying to manage that situation that I didn't change the bike in the right moment. I'm disappointed for that because we had the chance to fight for the victory.”
Dovizioso admitted it is difficult to know when to make a pit stop, especially if you are leading the race.
“When you are leading you don't want to stop, because you are managing the situation in a better way than the other riders. You don't want to take that risk because every time you go with slick tyres on the wet parts it's very easy to make a mistake and lose the race.
“But most of the time to change the bike early it works. I didn't do that in the right moment, but like I said I was so focused on managing the tyre and keeping the gap.”
In absence of radios, MotoGP teams can only use pit boards to advise riders of when they should stop.
“We don't have a communication so it's very difficult to understand everything. For example, with eight laps to go in my mind there wasn't the idea to stop. But the reality wasn't like this.
“To take that decision and change bikes early, when you are inside of the race is completely different from the outside and on the TV. That's what happened today, like many times, like last year in Misano when Valentino didn't change the bike.
“When I saw 'box', I went to the box. But when [the team] get the lap time it's already too late [for that lap]. Then the next time I see the pit board on the main straight and at the end of that lap I can stop. You lose minimum two or three laps.
“I also didn't know which tyres I had when I came back out. I checked in the pit lane and in the beginning I thought I had the rain tyre because I saw the line, but it was the intermediate front and slick rear.
“Anyway, to finish on the podium in Sachsenring and in these conditions is really good for us, especially because we didn't get a lot of important results this year.
“We had some bad luck at the beginning of the season, which was not our fault. This result is for the team because they are working really hard.”
The result moves Dovizioso up to ninth in the world championship. Team-mate Andrea Iannone finished fifth.
By Peter McLaren