Andrea Dovizioso believes his strategy of gradually applying pressure “without taking a lot of risks” paid off in fine style as he swooped to a second place finish at the MotoGP race at Motegi.
Starting from fourth, the Italian had an early scare when he and countryman Valentino Rossi went for the same stretch of tarmac, but soon settled into a good early rhythm.
Dovizioso was all-too-aware of the fine limits of Michelin's front tyre, and the dangers of riding above and beyond the limit around Motegi, a circuit that places a serious emphasis on heavy braking.
The Ducati rider took full advantage of the crashes of both Movistar Yamaha riders to claim his fourth podium of 2016, and his first since the Austrian Grand Prix in August.
“Unfortunately I start quite well but Valentino didn't and we went in the same way,” began Dovizioso, now sixth in the world championship standings, a place and eight points ahead of Cal Crutchlow.
“I had to slow down and I lost some positions. At that time it was difficult. I decide to not push 100 percent and not be crazy. I saw Marc and Valentino had some more speed than me but I tried to catch Espargaro.
“After the crash of Valentino I tried to catch Lorenzo. I saw him riding in a strange way because maybe he wasn't 100 percent after his crash. But he was fast. I tried to catch him without taking a lot of risks. Like everyone saw, it was very easy to crash today. I have some positive points in some parts of the track, some negatives.
“The race was long and a lot of hard braking. I tried to catch one tenth here, then less than one tenth there. With five laps to go I was very close. I decide to overtake him in two laps but he made a mistake. I think he touched the white line with the front tyre and it was easy. After that I was focussed on the pit board.
“Then I saw Viñales was 1.4 seconds [behind] and I thought 'This is a problem' because Maverick is normally very strong at the end of the race. But my pace was good. I was able to control him.”
Asked to expand on the risks with Michelin's front tyre, Dovizioso continued, “More or less it's a similar situation in every race.
“We have a lot of grip, especially on the rear. That's why we can be really fast but it's not easy to manage the grip on the front. When you have that characteristic like Motegi, you have hard braking, it's so easy to miss the perfect point when you brake. It's so easy to make the corner some kph faster. That is enough to make a mistake.
“Also it's very important to not touch the white line with the Michelin so I think Lorenzo touched the white line. That's why he crashed. This happened many times this year. That's why I decided to do this strategy. Like Lorenzo, Valentino crash, they didn't make something really bad but the limit is very close. It's difficult to feel when you go over the limit.”
Dovizioso was sat next to the newly crowned MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez in the post-race press conference. Asked if he had any words for the now triple premier class champion, he added, “I have to say a big congratulations because the reality, I think everyone knows, at the beginning of the season the Honda wasn't the best bike.
“He managed the championship in a perfect way. Apart from that his speed, the limit of the bike was unbelievable. I think this championship is much more important than the first two he won. A big congratulations.”