This Sunday could see Aleix Espargaro exceed his entire 2020 MotoGP points tally, in the space of just five races.

The Aprilia rider currently sits seventh in the world championship on 35 points, just 7 less than the 42 he collected during all 14 rounds last year.

That includes matching the RS-GP's best ever MotoGP result of sixth place at the last two races.

The recent Jerez round also saw Espargaro cross the finish line just 5.164s from victory, the closest yet for Aprilia, despite battling late-race arm pump (for which he will undergo surgery on Monday).

But rewind to last November and the RS-GP seemed like a bike nobody wanted to ride.

The seat alongside Espargaro was not only turned down by established MotoGP stars Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso, who preferred test riding and a year-out respectively, but also Moto2 frontrunners Fabio di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi and Joe Roberts. It eventually went to rookie test rider Lorenzo Savadori.

For Espargaro, who has been with Aprilia since 2017, the form finally being shown this season is a source of great pride.

"I'm very happy about the level we are showing this year, we are very close to the winner in every race, at three completely different circuit layouts," Espargaro said.

"I don’t want to sound arrogant but I feel a big part of this is because of my [work] and the big effort that I and the people around me, the engineers, put into the project.

"It's not for example like Suzuki that has two riders are developing the bike together for more than 3-4 seasons… I have had many team-mates but the one that always worked and put the maximum effort into this project has been myself, so I'm very proud of it.

"Just one year ago nobody wanted to join us, we were not seen as a serious project, not a good bike. Now it looks like Aprilia is the revolution bike and young talented riders want to join our team and a very big talent like Dovizioso is testing for us. So I'm very very proud of this and very happy."

It remains to be seen if Dovizioso's series of tests will ultimately tempts the triple title runner-up to race for Aprilia next year, but there may still be other RS-GP seats available for at least one young rising star via a potential satellite deal with Gresini.

di Giannantonio already has a Gresini MotoGP contract for next season, but the team's machinery is yet to be official decided as it splits from Aprilia's factory project and returns to full Independent status.

However, if Espargaro has his way, there will be a new name added to the list of potential Moto2 riders for Aprilia management to target; race-winning rookie Raul Fernandez.

"I talked to di Giannantonio at the end of last year in Portimao when he was thinking to join us or not, but he said to me that he was not ready to move forward to MotoGP. And for the future he's a very talented rider but also I like a lot Raul Fernandez, if we talk about young Moto2 riders," Espargaro said.

"Raul for me, what he's doing – everybody is talking about Pedro Acosta because he's, yes, unbelievable, but with all respect for him and the other Moto3 riders, Moto2 is a lot more difficult. Another story.

"Moto3 rookies for me the word rookies is not really correct because they are coming from the Spanish championship, Red Bull Rookies and the bikes are very similar and they know the tracks.

"But Moto2 is already a very powerful bike, difficult, with a lot of talented riders and what Raul is achieving this year for me is unbelievable.

"So hopefully Aprilia can sign one of the best Moto2 guys, it will be good for the future because I'm already 31 so I cannot stay here forever! They need to cover the future."

Turning to this weekend's French Grand Prix, Espargaro revealed that Aprilia are experiencing some 'Covid issues' among their engineers and he is yet to be debriefed on Dovizioso's wet weather test at Mugello this week – with similar rain conditions expected for Le Mans.

"Unfortunately, [Dovi] was not able to ride in the dry and I still have no information [about the test] because we have a little bit of mess with engineers due to the covid situation, we will have a little bit less engineers because we had some problems last week.

"Some engineers that had been in contact with someone were forced to miss the test and some will not be able to come here. Unfortunately some electronic guys will not be able to stay here.

"So I still have to talk with Romano [Albesiano] about Dovi's test, but hopefully they tried some new or different map for the electronics in the wet and it will be easier especially in the first session at Le Mans because I suffered a lot in the wet with the old bike.

"I hope that this year the bike will be a little bit easier and I can fight for top ten also in the wet. It will be very important for me also because it's a long time that I've been not competitive in the wet and maybe for Sunday we can be lucky and have a dry race."

Immediately after the race, Espargaro will head to Barcelona for arm-pump surgery.

"I suffer a lot in Jerez, the last 5-6 laps were a nightmare, I mean I was just able to grip with one finger and I finished really at the limit," Espargaro explained. "Then on Monday I had a very big crash at the test so I travelled immediately to Dexeus hospital in Barcelona and I spent a couple of hours making some stress tests on the arm, talking with Mir and all of his doctors.

"It looks like I have a big [issue] on my muscles of the right arm. That they are close again because I had an operation in 2010, so more than 10 years ago, and it looks like I need an operation.

"They suggested to me the best thing will be to get an operation. I know may people try to help, in a good sense, but everybody says his own opinion. Some say that you can do some acupuncture, some say you can treat by massage, some say that if you do the massage you get more inflammation… I don’t know.

"At the end it's difficult but I truly believe that in MotoGP we have one of the best doctors teams in the world and they strongly recommended to me to operate because I have a big disaster on the arm. I don’t know the words in English but basically they say everything is bad.

"Unfortunately it was a little bit on the limit to operate on Wednesday-Thursday of last week, because there was not enough time to arrive at Le Mans, so I've decided to do Le Mans as it's not a very demanding track but I'm very worried about Mugello. Very worried. Because for me it's the worst track for arm pump and it's Aprilia home grand prix.

"I don’t want to operate, I hate operations, but I will do everything I can to be in the best condition for Aprilia in Mugello. So if the doctors recommend this, I will follow them.

"Monday 8am I will do the surgery, 99%."