Johann Zarco says the pressure of defending a world title has been trickier to deal with compared to hunting a maiden championship last year, while his recent MotoGP deal with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 hasn't come as an added distraction to his 2016 campaign.
After a difficult start to the defence of his Moto2 title with just a single victory in the opening five races, Zarco has stormed back in style with three wins in the past four races – his only miss in that sequence being second place at Assen.
As a result, the French rider holds a 25-point lead in the Moto2 championship in the summer break with double the amount of wins compared his nearest challenge Alex Rins. No rider has yet won two Moto2 titles.
Reflecting on his challenging start to the campaign, with Zarco having looked way off the pace in pre-season testing, the Ajo Motorsport rider says the mental pressure of defending a title rather than attacking to claim one provided a tougher test than first expected.
"The difference is me, because this year I am the reigning champion and last year I wasn't,” Zarco said. “When I wake up every morning thinking I'm the champion, this adds pressure on me.
“Last year I got up thinking I wanted to be champion, and now I wake up with the feeling that I have to be champion. This might be a difference, since the work we do is the same as always."
In the build-up to the race in Germany it was confirmed Zarco would be stepping up to MotoGP with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 in 2017, forming an all-new rider line-up with fellow Moto2 rider Jonas Folger.
Despite continued speculation surrounding Zarco, who had been heavily linked with a potential switch to Suzuki for 2017, the French rider says the contract negotiations didn't have any impact on his early season form and is now relishing the battle for the Moto2 title with a new contract freshly completed.
"I want to continue to keep a cool head, and it is good for me that everything is in place for the future,” Zarco said. “I have people who are dealing with this and I believe in them.
“My job is to be a rider, and that is what I'm doing. I don't get distracted by matters off the track."