Aleix: My reaction to Barcelona mistake ‘very different, strange’

The chance to fight for a MotoGP title after spending most of his career outside of the championship top ten may explain Aleix Espargaro’s ‘very strange’ reaction to the last-lap mistake in Barcelona.
Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP, 17 June
Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP, 17 June

‘I did many mistakes in my career!’ Espargaro smiled after Friday practice in Germany.

But unlike on previous occasions, the Spaniard struggled to put the Barcelona mishap behind him over the following days.

“The reaction, my feelings after the mistake, was something very strange. Never happened before,” Espargaro said.

“I couldn't sleep on Tuesday, I couldn't sleep on Wednesday, I was angry during lunch time eating with my wife, I never sincerely felt like this.

“I’ve done many mistakes, my career has not been a good one. I was low for many, many years, but I was always able to arrive home and cycle, stay with my wife and relax. But this time was different. Very strange.”

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While throwing himself into training has usually helped Espargaro move on from past errors, on this occasion it took a more extreme form of distraction to finally put the incident behind him.

“I decided to switch off everything, take the plane and go [with my family] to Disneyland Paris. I don't know what I’ll have to do next time, if I do this mistake!

“But sincerely, it never happened in my life. Normally the more hours I spend training or on the bicycle, the better I feel. If I can arrive at a race with half a kilo less, I'm super happy.

“But this time was the opposite. This time I arrived here weighing 1 kilo more [after Disneyland], but I'm more happy!”

The difference, Espargaro admits, is that the stakes are so much higher than in the past.

Following his and Aprilia’s first MotoGP race win in Argentina, Espargaro has climbed the podium five times in seven races (Barcelona would have been the sixth) to hold second in the world championship behind Fabio Quartararo.

It’s a situation Espargaro, 32, could only have dreamed about for much of his career and probably explains why he struggled to get over the nine points he surrendered to Quartararo in the Barcelona blunder.

“It's possible, the pressure, that I’ve never had the experience of this year before,” Espargaro said. “The feeling that I have is that I'm not… How old is Fabio? 23? He can win 10 titles. I don't think I can win titles at 40 years old, so I'm very focused to use the opportunity I have this year. So maybe this is the reason.”

Younger brother Pol may be yet to win a race in MotoGP, but he has been a world champion in the Moto2 class.

“In some stages of that season, fighting with Scott [Redding], Pol felt the pressure, but it's different because Pol was fighting for the championship already the year before. And already in 125, with Marc Marquez and Nico Terol.

“Me, it’s the opposite. I finished 12th every year!”

Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP, 17 June
Aleix Espargaro, German MotoGP, 17 June

New Aprilia aero provides stability

Espargaro made a strong start to the Sachsenring weekend with a close fourth in Friday practice, as the only non-Ducati rider in the top six.

“Today I proved that I can be very fast, '20.7, '20.8 with the hard tyre is very, very fast,” Espargaro said.

“Normally in the past I was always at my 100% risking every lap. Now it's the opposite. I can go as fast as I want, but you need to manage [the pace]. So this is something that I can improve tomorrow.”

Like team-mate Maverick Vinales, Espargaro also used the new Aprilia fairing upgrade, which he felt provided more stability at the short German track but will be of most benefit at faster venues.

“It gives me more stability,” Espargaro said. “This track, it’s like karting, so the advantage is not huge. I think in a fast tracks it will be more different, so I will keep it for the rest of the weekend.”

While the early-finish grabbed the headlines in Barcelona, Espargaro’s home victory hopes had effectively been crushed in the opening laps, when Quartararo set a fearsome pace while Espargaro followed team advice to carefully save his tyres.

“This will not happen [again],” he said. “Maybe I will destroy the tyre and will not arrive at the end, but nobody will go away in the first part of the race here!"

And will there be any changes made to ensure the Barcelona finish debacle isn’t repeated?

“During the week, I thought about many, many things. Should I move the pit board, or do I need to put something on the dash, but I wasn’t even looking at the dash in that moment anyway.

“in the end I realised it was just a stupid mistake. My mistake. And in 15 years of my career, it’s happened once. It will not happen anymore, I hope!”

Maverick Vinales, German MotoGP, 17 June
Maverick Vinales, German MotoGP, 17 June

Maverick Vinales: If I can start in the front…

Team-mate Maverick Vinales backed up Espargaro’s Friday form with a ‘solid’ eighth place, but the big question will be if the #12 can finally claim the strong qualifying he believes will lead to fighting at the front.

“The feeling is good. Every race I feel more prepared. I feel much more solid, especially through FP1 and FP2,” Vinales said. “I think our margin to improve for the rest of the days is very big and it’s something very motivating for me because I'm not really far away; on rhythm and also on time attack, I was decent.

“I think tomorrow we have to point to go to the Q2 and then make a super qualifying because I just feel that if I start in the front, I'm able to keep with the front guys.”

Vinales also ran the new ‘fat’ fairing for the RS-GP, but agrees it will be most effective on faster tracks.

“At the end it helps on the long straights, but it seems that there is nothing negative and it will work in many tracks,” he said. “We know it's a good update and there will be a track with a long straight where we will take the profit of this fairing.”

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