Valentino Rossi said he felt “devastated” by the crash that ended his hopes of breaking a MotoGP win-drought that has lasted 17 months, but believes he could view aspects of his performance positively, saying “we lived the dream for 15 laps.”

The 39-year old conjured up some of that old magic to command an early lead, and extend his advantage over bitter rival Marc Marquez to 1.3s as an epic Malaysian Grand Prix entered its final third. Yet Marquez was willing to risk it all in a bid to reel his assailant in, forcing a fall from his rival at the first turn with four laps to go.

The chances of a first win since June 2017 were gone. Not only that. Rossi felt the incident robbed the 103,984 fans in attendance of a finale the race until then had deserved. The Italian knew Marquez was coming, but still felt “quite strong” toward the end. “I could fight,” he smiled.

Singapore V4, F1,

“It’s a mixed feeling,” began Rossi. “From one side I’m very happy for the race because it’s the best race of the season for me and also it was coming in difficult conditions at a difficult track for us. This is very important.

“On the other side it’s a great, great shame. I’m very disappointed for the mistake. To make a race like this and go home with zero points is frustrating, yes.

“Also today the result can be very important also for the championship because if I don’t win and I arrive second I close the third place with Maverick and I can be five points from Dovi [Andrea Dovizioso] for second in Valencia.

“Now Dovi has gone and we have to fight with Maverick for the third place. But I think Valencia is an important weekend because it’s one of the most difficult tracks. If we are able to be strong also there it’s positive.

“We have to say it’s my first mistake of the season because I arrived always at the end except in Argentina. But maybe it’s the worst moment. But like you said, I’m devastated for the crash.

“But I’m also happy because anyway we lived the dream for 15 laps. After the victory of my brother also, it can be a great, great day. But it’s like this.”

Rossi’s performance – arguably his best since 2016, when he took Marquez on in a vintage Catalan Grand Prix – comes just one week after Maverick Viñales’ win at Phillip Island, which ended the factory’s 25-race win drought.

At Aragon, Yamaha was stranded, all at sea and struggling to finish inside the top eight. So what changed on Rossi’s side?

“We modify a lot the bike, the setting to try and make everything help the rear tyre,” he said. “At the end it worked. Already from Friday morning I felt good. We worked well with the team. We just made a small adjustment.

“We can be competitive for all the race. Also Maverick was not so bad, and also Zarco. Because Maverick started from very behind, no? This time the three Yamahas were quite competitive.

“It was more mechanical [than electronics changes]. In the last races we improved the electronics, like three or four races ago that helped a bit. But now it’s more mechanical.

“Looks like in the last laps we were struggling a little bit more compared with the Honda and also compared to Ducati. Also Maverick in Phillip Island won but in the last three or four laps he slowed down quite a lot.

“But he was alone so he won. He was strong to be there. For me in the last part of the race we still suffer, yeah. But one story is if you speak about the last four laps, or five laps, and one story is if you start to have a problem in the half of the race.

“For me the problems are not fixed and we have to improve. Like I said, we worked well on the software but we have to make something more in the hardware from Japan. I think we need some details, especially in the electronics and also in the engine. We speak a lot with the Japanese and it looks like it will work.”

On the crash that ended his hopes, he said, “I don’t know, we have to check. I push for sure. But I pushed for 15 laps the same and when I touched the throttle the rear slide and I don’t expect, sincerely. I’m more worried about the front and I was more on the edge. The rear slide a bit too much and the bike go down.

“I want to try to push a lot to the end because anyway there were five laps to go. I wanted to try so Marquez arrived as late as possible. I understand that he arrived because he gained a little bit.

“I think that it’s a great shame for everybody the crash, because it can be funny. I was quite strong and I can fight. But there was not a particular strategy.”