Maverick Vinales returned to the front of a MotoGP race for the first time since his Silverstone victory, leading seven of the opening eight laps at Aragon on Sunday.
The Suzuki star, who had qualified on the front row, blasted past pole sitter and eventual winner Marc Marquez to head the opening lap – then returned to the front when the Repsol Honda star made a mistake.
Vinales lost the lead to Valentino Rossi on lap 9 and was fourth - where he would ultimately finish - a lap later, but was able to keep pressure on Jorge Lorenzo for a podium finish until lap 18 of 23.
"I tried to make the same strategy as Silverstone; when I saw myself in first I just tried to push, push and push," Vinales said. "When I had grip the bike was really good, I was riding quite consistently in '59 low and even '58.9, so I was really happy and quite surprised that I could keep this pace.
"Then when the grip went down I made many mistakes. Behind Valentino I locked the rear tyre. I nearly hit [him] and I needed to go out [of the track]. And then behind Jorge the same; I locked the tyre and then I went out.
"I would like to win like everyone, but I'm really happy because I could do many laps at the front and I could keep with Jorge until lap 18. That's great. Today was quite hot, so it means we did a big step in those conditions.
"If I could keep the grip for more laps, I can stay there fighting in the front.
"We just lose a little bit of the grip at the rear and then it makes it so difficult to keep the line and get good acceleration. But I realise we've got more experience and did one step more.
"This time the tyre lived until lap 18; next time we'll try to make it live until the last lap. But it was nice to battle at the front. I feel my level of riding style is at their level, so we can do more good races.
"So I'm motivated for that and also a little bit a shame that I could not get the podium."
The Spaniard revealed further grip gains are likely to come from further refining the power delivery of his GSX-RR.
"Where we can put more power, less power. Because behind Marc or behind Jorge some parts they use more power, less power and we need to organise the power in a good way. But I think the team is doing a great job all the time and for sure with more experience we can do it.
"When I have grip the bike is good. I even nearly passed Marc on acceleration. The problem is when I lose grip, we need to improve there."
Next up will be Vinales' final Japanese MotoGP appearance for Suzuki, the factory that gave him his MotoGP break, before moving to Yamaha.
"I would like to make an incredible result because last year I was eighth and I crashed, but this year I have a good feeling. Motegi has some parts that are really good for us. So we are going to push. Now it's four races to go, I'm going to give everything.
"Today was everything we could do. But next time we will try to do 120%!"
Vinales is now just six points behind Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa in the battle for fourth in the world championship.
By Peter McLaren