Aleix Espargaro's first target for the 2021 MotoGP season is to pay tribute to late team boss Fausto Gresini with a podium finish.

Moto2 team-mate Fabio di Giannantonio was able to achieve just such a goal in Qatar last Sunday, prompting emotional scenes in parc ferme.

It was the first time since 2016 that the Gresini team, which won the inaugural 2010 Moto2 title with Toni Elias, had returned to the intermediate class rostrum.

"Obviously, my first desire, the first goal for this season is to pay tribute to Fausto by achieving a podium. That's clear, that's my goal," Espargaro said.

"At the team presentation, the atmosphere was very bad [without Fausto]. When you are racing, you are obviously focusing on the race, but you always have in mind that he's not here.

"Nothing against Bezzecchi, because he did a very good race, but I was pushing Diggia to finish on the podium. Pass Bezz! Pass Bezz!' - not only to pay tribute to Fausto, but also for all the team, MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3, the guys that have been working half their lives with Fausto.

"It was kind of a small present. Everybody was looking at the sky, so very happy that Diggia achieved the podium."

If Espargaro can do the same in MotoGP it would mark the first ever rostrum for Aprilia's RS-GP machine and the first for Gresini since splitting from Honda at the end of 2013.

Judging by his performance in last Sunday's Qatar season-opener, the Spaniard will certainly have a fighting chance, having finished in seventh place but a best-yet 5.9s from victory.

"I was a little bit nervous during the first part of the race because of all the pressure that I have - which is normal, it's my job - but after the test everybody was saying 'it's just a test, let's see during the race, every year it's the same' [Aprilia fast in testing]," Espargaro said.

"So at least I'm happy that we confirmed this is the best Aprilia ever in MotoGP, that we can fight in the leading group.

"Actually when I overtook Valentino and Martin with Mir, over the next ten laps we were two-seconds quicker than the race leaders and we arrived close to them. But in the last 6 laps I didn't have enough front tyre to fight for the podium.

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"But the potential and the speed we showed has been good, and sincerely, I feel that I learned a couple of things, especially in the first laps with a full fuel tank, I lost a lot of ground, so we have to change the balance of the bike, which is already planned for tomorrow.

"And I think we can improve a little bit our race pace, so we can maybe fight for top 5. Who knows? Sincerely, I expected the group last Sunday would be a bit bigger and more like a Moto3 race, and it wasn't like this. Just 6, 7 riders.

"So I'm happy that we've been in the mix and let's see if we can be a little bit closer next one."

Changing subject completely, Espargaro was asked about rumours that he could switch sports and become a professional cyclist in future.

"You guys know how much I love cycling, you guys know everybody has his own dreams, to be a cyclist one day is one of mine, because I enjoy it a lot and because I work very hard with the bicycle every time I can. So let's see what the future holds…"