The Aprilia rider, who had dominated much of the weekend but was unable to match Fabio Quartararo in the race, had been holding off the Pramac Ducatis of Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco for second when he backed off and began waving at Turn 1.

As riders accelerated past, Espargaro realised his shocking error, which ultimately dropped him to fifth place, and was inconsolable in the garage afterwards.

“I’m sorry. That’s the only thing that I can say, sorry to my team. It's completely my fault,” he said.

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Espargaro is not the first rider to make such an error, previous examples including Kenny Roberts in 2006 and Julian Simon in 2009.

All have followed a similar pattern, with a rider misunderstanding the laps remaining on the main straight timing tower, rather than looking at their pit board or for a chequered flag.

In Espargaro’s case, the Aprilia garage was also the first out of the fast final corner and he was often failing to see his pit board, causing him to rely even more on the timing tower to countdown the laps.

The five-second gap to Quartararo ahead also meant Espargaro would not have expected to see the Frenchman celebrating until later on the slow down lap.

“My people [with the pit board] were the first ones [out of the last corner],” he said. “So some laps I had no time to look at the laps [remaining on the pit board] as well as the gap with Martin.

“I was pushing to the limit so I just watched the gap with Martin, +0.6, then I watched the tower and I saw ‘L1’. So I did one more lap and I didn't remember that here in Barcelona last lap is ‘0’ not ‘1’. And I closed the gas on the straight.

“So I'm very sorry for my team because, I didn't have the speed of Fabio to win, but if I want to beat him in the championship I cannot do these mistakes. Today I lost 9 [extra] points, so I'm very sorry.”

Espargaro remains second in the world championship but the end of his four-race podium streak has seen him slip 22 points from reigning champion Quartararo.

With hindsight, Espargaro felt he could have at least stuck with Quartararo at the start of the race but had been too wary of tyre conservation.

“Yesterday between Michelin and my team, everybody put a lot of worry into my [mind] by saying that I use a lot of tyre, that I had to be gentle on the first laps and I was too gentle sincerely,” Espargaro said.

“Because at the end of the race, when I overtook Martin, I had enough tyre to put 41.5s and go away.

“I think Fabio was not faster than me, but he was smarter, was able to push at the beginning, and then it's impossible to recover 2 - 2.5 seconds to Fabio. I think I could have gone with him at the beginning. But anyway, it's too late.”

Team-mate Maverick Vinales, who gambled on the soft rear, finished seventh.

"It was kind of a gamble but all weekend I was good with the soft," Vinales said. "It was not bad, honestly. I just expected a little bit more in the beginning. But the track was very tricky today."

"Tomorrow is a very important day for us," Vinales said of Monday's official test. "Aprilia is working so hard, I think we have a new aero package, different chassis, different swingarm. Many important things.

"For me it's very interesting to try a different chassis. Because still I don't feel I have the flow. I’m a little bit rigid on the bike. I need to try to get better feelings and better feedback from the bike."

Of his team-mate's last-lap mistake, Vinales added: "There is a big tower here. But when the first guy passes to start the last lap, they put '0'. It's confusing. I think he’s not the only rider to have that happen here in Montmelo.

"To look at the tower is the problem, but it's easier to look at the tower than the pit board."

Riders also have a lap count available on their dashboard but it can sometimes get out of sync. For example, if it starts counting from the warm-up lap, rather than the race start.

As such, the only conclusive proof of reaching the finish remains seeing the chequered flag.

"I look at my pit board, and even if they've made a mistake, I don't stop until I see the bloody chequered flags!" said Remy Gardner.