Starting from pole and the pre-race favourite, Espargaro spent much of the race swapping second with Jorge Martin, helping Fabio Quartararo escape at the front.

The Aprilia rider made his final pass on Martin with 4 laps to go and was several bikelengths clear of the Pramac Ducati as the last lap began - when Espargaro wrongly thought the race had finished, backed off and began waving to the fans.

“I tried to be close to him so I could fight on the last lap, but then he stopped. I thought he broke the engine,” Martin said.

Team-mate Johann Zarco was just over one-second behind Martin.

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“I also thought it was a technical problem, but when I saw Aleix with his arms up, I said, ‘he’s celebrating’,” said the Frenchman.

“I had some doubts, ‘is the race finished or not?’ But when I saw Jorge keep pushing, I said, ‘even if it’s finished, I’ll keep pushing also. Maybe I will see Fabio celebrating a few corners later…’

“So I just tried to stay focused and finish the race. It was a nice gift. A big surprise. I really thought [Aleix] would fight back [past me], but now I saw on the video that he took even more time to realise that the race was not finished.”

Joan Mir: I should give Aleix a bottle of wine!

Espargaro’s error cost him eight-seconds on the final lap, ending his hopes of a fifth podium in a row and dropping him to fifth place, behind Joan Mir’s Suzuki.

“Probably I should give him a bottle of wine tonight or something for that position!” joked Mir. “I'm sorry for him. I think it’s happened to a lot of people and we all make mistakes. He's doing a super job and this can happen. He has to be proud for the race that he's done.”

Espargaro later explained that he had been caught out by looking at the lap countdown on the main straight timing tower, due to difficulties seeing his pit board.

When he saw ‘L1’ on the tower, Espargaro thought there was one lap to go, forgetting that the tower, which is for the benefit of spectators, reads ‘L0’ for the last lap.

“I pay attention to the tower, but on the last lap I look at my board and I saw that it was one lap,” Mir said.

“But then I had some doubts when I saw Aleix and said ‘maybe it’s finished?' Then I saw Zarco pushing and said ‘no, maybe it's his engine’ and [later] I understood what happened.”

Espargaro isn’t the first rider to make such a mistake, past examples including Alex Rins at Brno 2014 and Julian Simon at Barcelona 2009.

“If you think about it, [celebrating early] is something that is difficult to explain,” said Mir. “But 24 laps riding a MotoGP bike around here [in this heat] is a lot, it’s easy to make a mistake. For sure it won't happen to him again!”

While the chequered flag remains the only definitive way of knowing the race is over. “Sometimes if you are in a fight you don’t see it, but at least normally you see it,” said Zarco.

As well as pit boards, riders can also check their dashboards for lap information during a race, but Mir explained it’s not always reliable and he uses it only as a rough guide.

“It's something that I don't look at a lot because maybe we can have a mistake with the warm-up lap counting [as lap 1 of the race]. So I don't pay a lot of attention to that [on the dash],” he said.

“Maybe I look at it in the middle of the race, just to understand more-or-less the laps remaining. But I never trust it [completely].”

While Espargaro remains second in the title chase behind Quartararo, the last-lap error cost the Spaniard and Aprilia an extra nine points in the riders’, constructors’ and teams’ world championships.