In the wake of one of the true surprise showings in the first round of any MotoGP season in living memory, Johann Zarco admitted to feeling "a little pain in the heart" after a minor mistake led to him crashing out of the lead in his very first premier-class race.

The Frenchman was in inspired form from the drop of the flag. Exiting the first corner second, Zarco soon sensationally dispatched Andrea Iannone at turn six to lead, a position he would hold until lap seven, when he fell at turn two.

Other than the mistake, Zarco looked like a seasoned pro in those opening laps, his speed no doubt aided by a bold pre-race decision to race with Michelin's soft rear tyre compound, a gamble he likened to a game of poker.

The performance drew praise from each of the podium men and Zarco was philosophical when speaking after the race, stating that a top three placing was entirely within reach.

"Starting from fourth position we struggle a little bit to start," he said. "The conditions were quite strange but I could see the track finally good and I was ready to race.

"Starting from the second row, I wanted to use this opportunity to be quick in the pace with the top riders. Finally it was a good start, a good first braking into the first corner, and I could see that I was feeling good compared to them.

"I'm happy that I could overtake the riders and then take the lead and try to go away. The feeling was good. I didn't want to push more but it means that I was close to the limit and just a little bit wide in corner two. I crashed.

"It's a shame for sure. It was possible to maybe take a podium or more. But for the first race, starting in this way is good for the mind, good for the confidence. I could see how they are riding, how they can control and be clever during the race. It's a good lesson for me.

"I need to learn this new category. There are some small things that I need to control a little bit more. As I say, I didn't do it here. I didn't finish here well. But I can really say that it will happen for the next round. I need to play again to make it happen for the future."

On whether he suffered any injuries in the fall, the 26-year old said the pain he felt was not of a physical kind. "No, it was really just a slide," he said. "Even the bike was no big damage and we only made a slide. A little pain in the heart but that's not physical pain."

Zarco was adamant that his decision to race the soft was key in his early speed too."This soft tyre, I say to the guys, 'I want to play, like in the poker, with this soft tyre.' It's maybe not the only one. I saw that the race [distance] went from 22 to 21 to 20 laps.

"I say, 'Why not try it?' I had nothing to lose. I'm learning. That's why I stay positive with what I did, enjoy this moment and feel strong for the future. I'm a smooth rider and with this soft tyre it was possible to keep it good."

Not one to get carried away, the Frenchman finally stated that his stellar opening performance has given him the right to dream even bigger than he had before arriving in Qatar.

"From my coach, yes," he responded when asked if his objectives for the season have changed in light of this showing.

"He was happy that I did this. It's not my way of racing to go crazy fast and crash. So he said, 'You need to improve your feeling, still need to learn things. Keep training hard and you can dream about victories and podiums.'"

Zarco set would be the fastest lap of the race, on lap 4.


Cal Crutchlow - Career Profile by Crash_net