The 2018 MotoGP season-opening Qatar Grand Prix was one filled with frustration for the Aprilia duo of Aleix Espargaro and Scott Redding.

Last year Espargaro had the best result of his season under the floodlights of Losail with a sixth place finish but the 2018 season opener’s 22-lap race was one that he'll look back on and wonder what might have been after seeing a top five finish within reach.

A fuel problem left him hamstrung after only a handful of laps. Having fallen down the order for the first half of the race the Spaniard was able to fight back to the battle for ninth before the problem cost him 20 second on the final lap which ultimately dropped him to 19th place at the chequered flag, three seconds ahead of teammate Redding.

“I started the race very well but after lap three I had a warning about my fuel,” Espargaro said. “I started the race on a very lean map and I was aiming to conserve fuel in the early laps before using a qualifying map in the final laps. When I saw the alarm I was obviously very angry because even though I was using full throttle everywhere I was so slow.

“I felt fantastic and I managed to stay very consistent in the race. My corner speeds were higher during the race than they were in qualifying because I had to change my style and I was able to catch Miller and Iannone very comfortably. I think that I could have finished ninth but the bike stopped on the last lap.

“I think that if we could have used the strategy as planned I could have fought for the top five.”

While the 28-year-old could salvage some pride from his performance there was little joy on the other side of the Aprilia garage.

Scott Redding's debut for the Noale manufacturer was a “nightmare” with rear grip issues plaguing the Englishman all weekend and it was only during the final five laps when he started to show any true speed. Setting his fastest lap on the penultimate lap it took an age for him to feel any potential from the bike.

“We struggled in the race the same way that we've struggled all weekend,” Redding said. “The rear grip just wasn't there and I couldn't stop the bike, turn the bike or exit the corner until suddenly with five laps to go it starts to get better. It was too late with five laps to go.

“We need to understand why this happened and I can't point it to the weight from a full tank versus the lower weight at the end.

“During the test it was so different. I could make fast laps easily but this weekend we've struggled all the time. We tried something in the warm-up but it wasn't the right direction.

“We couldn't use the right tyre because if you've no grip in the rear it doesn't matter what you put in the front. I'm disappointed because I expected a lot more but now we have to understand why it happened. It's been a tough weekend and now we need to learn from this.”

In their search for a solution Redding commented that the team has reduced their engine power to try and calm the delivery as much as possible.

With the problem affecting him in all stages of the corner, leaving Redding to described himself “as a prisoner to the bike” and is keen to learn from the mistakes in Qatar to improve his Aprilia package in the following races.

“With this bike if you've no grip in the rear you can't stop this bike,” he explained. “You can pull the lever to hell and stand on the rear brake with as much pressure as possible but it still won't stop.

“We're missing that mechanical grip and it's frustrating because I was a prisoner to the bike today. It was a nightmare but hopefully we can find the base of the problem and improve.”

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