Winner of 3 out of 4 races at the start of last season, Lorenzo Baldassarri finally returned to the Moto2 podium during the 2020 opener in Qatar.

Although he has remained on a Pons-run Kalex, much has changed for Baldassarri since a year ago, most notably a departure from the VR46 Riders Academy.

After a modest pre-season, the Italian began the Losail race in ninth place, but rose steadily through the field to reach the podium battle just after mid-distance.

Baldassarri eventually finished just 1.3s from race winner Tetsuta Nagashima after an intense duel with countryman Enea Bastianini

"I'm very happy because after a tough winter, to come here, stop thinking and just try to enjoy riding the bike was great," said Baldassarri, also now working with Remy Gardner's 2019 crew chief Alfred Willeke.

"I was very confident with my rhythm for the race. But congratulations to Nagashima, who at the end overtook us and then escaped because we were fighting."

Baldassarri, linked to a satellite Ducati MotoGP seat after his stunning early run a year ago, must now try to mount a sustained challenge.

"Last year many changes happened so from there I learned a lot for the future as a person and a rider. The biggest changes were the bike and tyre, but also when you are not quiet outside the track it seems for the head it's also difficult," he said.

"I've changed many things around me. The support I have is great and I like the people I have around me now. It's important because I feel quite quiet and my preparation is a bit different.

"Now I still train in a group, but a different group, with motorbikes. For example motocross with Dovi and Petrux and sometimes Dovi is also helping me. And when I can, I train alone at the gym. So it's different."

The Italian added: "I feel strong, but also last year I felt very strong. I won three of the first four races so I was feeling great. Then many different things happened, it wasn't easy to manage.

"I hope I've learned from that and for me the target is the same; always give the maximum and get my best result at each race. I think I had a good lesson last year."