Maverick Vi?ales felt a strategy based on tyre conservation in the early laps paid off as he clinched his third podium finish of 2016 at the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Despite showing strong, consistent pace throughout free practice, the 21-year old was unable to live with team-mate Aleix Espargaro during the opening of the 24-lap race.

Vi?ales could only look on as Espargaro stormed toward the podium places, his attentions instead firmly focussed on Cal Crutchlow as they were engaged in a tight scrap for sixth.

Yet as he has shown so often in his grand prix career, Vi?ales picked up the pace in the second half of the race, and was well placed to take advantage of Jorge Lorenzo's late crash to take Suzuki's third podium of the year.

"Honestly I didn't start so good," smiled the Catalan, who was adamant that this was not the limit of the Suzuki GSX-RR's potential.

"I saw that I was seventh and then tried to make another strategy, to conserve the tyre so I was strong at the end of the race. The strategy was really good.

"I started to be really fast with about ten laps to go. I catch Aleix and lost a lot of time. I tried to overtake so fast and I made so many mistakes. We started to battle and Dovi took a gap.

"Anyway I'm really happy. Yesterday was a really difficult qualifying for me but today we solved some problems. Now we go to Australia really motivated. I need to say thanks to our team. This morning they work really well. But this is not our limit. We can improve more and for sure we're going to give much more in the next race.

"It was not a surprise because we work really hard but for sure a surprise that I could be on the podium because of the difficult start. But then I just tried to be relaxed on the bike, save the tyres until the end.

"When I saw that Valentino and Jorge went down I said, 'OK, I have the third.' I tried to be calm and bring Suzuki this podium. I'm happy because the team did a good job in the morning. I could be quite fast. Still we can improve more and we can improve the bike, and I can go more fast."

Vi?ales now flies south to Phillip Island in Southern Australia, the scene of his best performance in 2015. What's more, he impressed at that same venue in pre-season testing, suggesting another victory challenge could be forthcoming.

"I will try for sure and give my best," he replied when asked about his approach to the end of the year.

"I hope the team will give 200 percent because these three races are going to be important for us to demonstrate and show we can be really strong and consolidate, and be on the podium more times.

"The team deserve this. Also I'm so grateful to Suzuki. We can give this podium to them and this is really important. Today I think we did a good race but we can be better.

Vi?ales also had kind words for Marc Marquez - an old rival from his childhood days, competing aboard mini-bikes in the local Catalan championship -, who secured a third premier class world championship on Sunday.

"A big congratulations. I think he did a really intelligent championship. He pushed when he needed to push and stayed calm in others where maybe he could have done the podium, but like in Misano, he preferred to do fourth.

"Anyway, they deserve it. They start the championship struggling a little bit but they resolve it. I think the Honda team did a really good job. I think he deserves this championship. Also, winning the race when he is fighting for the championship is not so easy so he managed good so I say a big congratulations."

Vinales is joining the factory Yamaha team in 2017.