Starting the penultimate event of his unexpected six-race MotoGP comeback, Crutchlow recovered from a scare at Turn 2 to finish the opening lap in 14th.

That put the Englishman two places behind RNF Yamaha team-mate Darryn Binder, who had someone rocketed from 24th and last to 12th on the opening lap, setting the tone for what would be a no-holds-barred fight.

“It was absolutely mental back there,” said Crutchlow. “But fun, because we were in a big battle.

“The cameras should have been our battle because I don't know how many wings came off and things like that, but there was ten of us together going completely mad.

Bagnaia vs Quartararo in MotoGP title SHOWDOWN! | Malaysian MotoGP 2022

“I made a really good start but into Turn 2 [the rear] went like Jack yesterday. I lost a couple of positions but managed to stay onI was OK.

“But Darren came from nowhere and was riding like a wild man!

“He was in a great position, so he rode well. The problem was the pack started to split up. He was at the front of our group and lost the group ahead of him, but we had really good riders behind us, Aleix, Zarco, Jack.

“! We all lost at least 8 to 10 seconds riding like idiots! I lost four places in one lap! It was fun with all the scrapping, but we were just holding each other up essentially.

‘Blasted by bullets’

“At one point. I thought ‘just f**k off and leave me alone!’ Let me ride around happy instead of getting blasted with ‘bullets’,” said Crutchlow, referring to the debris being fired from the back wheels of the bikes ahead.

“Honestly when these bikes throw rocks at you at 300k they hurt! I was thinking, ‘why am I not just riding alone at the back, waving to the crowd’, but competitiveness gets the better of me.

“It was actually good fun, but we slowed each other up because we were out of control.

“I was pleased at the end because I came back and passed Oliveira and Maverick on the last two laps, then did a blocking tactic on the last lap.”

That secured twelfth place (out of 19 finishers) for Crutchlow, his best result since retiring as a full-time MotoGP rider - and then signing on as a Yamaha test rider - at the end of 2020.

“I feel that I'm competitive enough, but I couldn't be competitive at the front, week in, week out,” said the triple premier-class race winner.

“I'm not stupid. I retired two years ago, also for this reason. At one time in your career you start to go slower.

“But I'm happy with the job I'm doing and Yamaha are happy.”

Earlier in the weekend, Crutchlow delighted the home RNF team by fitting slicks on a drying track to go fastest of all in Free Practice 2.

“On Friday, I knew it was important in Malaysia for the sponsors and Razlan. So I put the slicks and said ‘OK, we'll go’. It's good fun now and again.”

Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg said: “Cal did a great race. Also looking to the boys who finished behind us, it’s very impressive, what he is doing; coming out of retirement and finishing consistently inside the points. Chapeau to him.”

Crutchlow has scored ten points in his five races so far, putting him two points behind rookie Binder (who crashed from 16th on Sunday) and five behind Andrea Dovizioso, who vacated the M1 seat at Misano.

‘We can only ride alone’

Sunday’s race provided further evidence that Yamaha needs to make its 2023 machine more competitive in battle, rather than just clean air.

“The bike is the bike, the problem is we can only ride alone. This is our biggest problem,” Crutchlow said. “When Frankie was at the front of our group he just went across to the next group, but it's whether you're stuck behind people.

“Fabio rode the whole race on his own by the looks of it and he was fine. Great pace.

“Every time he’s won this year, Fabio’s been alone. We need to be able to ride with other people [in future], but by the second lap of the race, my front tyre pressure was already so high. I just had to manage it to the end.

“Fabio did a great job [to get third] today. Did what he needed to do, which was stay in the hunt. All the pressure is on Bagnaia, not on Fabio, he just has to go and try and win in Valencia. That's all he can do.”

Crutchlow: Yamaha’s 2023 engine has been through ‘4 stages’

While other riders take some well-earned time off ahead of the Valencia finale, after five races in six weeks, Crutchlow is taking part in a private test at Jerez to continue development of the 2023 Yamaha.

The new bike, and specifically the much-needed engine upgrade, impressed both Quartararo and Morbidelli during their debut test at Misano in September.

Crutchlow revealed the new engine has already been through ‘four stages’ of development with the Yamaha test team and that there is still an element of choice regarding which version to pursue.

“The direction is, we need more power and we need more top speed,” Crutchlow said. “But… We [also] need to change some other things. And this can't be done in a week.

“So we test with what we have for now and then let's see for next year.

“We need to be able to build a bike that can fight with other riders because, like I said before, we can only ride alone.

“Whether that's the engine, the chassis, the grip of the bike - and then it's slow in the straight - it's difficult to manage [at the moment] when you’re with other riders, really difficult.”

Quartararo and Morbidelli will test the latest 2023 upgrades during the Tuesday post-race test at Valencia, which Crutchlow will miss: “I'm going on holiday!”