It wasn't quite a repeat of his Silverstone podium heroics, but Aleix Espargaro felt his Aragon performance was perhaps even better than the British GP.

A fourth place in Sunday's race meant the Aprilia rider has beaten the RS-GP's pre-2021 best twice in as many races, while also moving nearer to Espargaro's 'biggest goal' of a top six place in this year's world championship.

"The race has been very good, and I'm more satisfied maybe than the race I did in Silverstone, in terms of performance," Espargaro said. "It has been a very very fast race, the track temperature was close to 50 degrees, and we were every single lap in mid-1'48, while last year Morbidelli's victory was in 1'49 high the last part of the race."

Rising from sixth to fourth on the opening lap, Espargaro briefly peaked in third before being re-passed by Suzuki's reigning world champion Joan Mir.

"I tried to treat the tyre good, at the end I couldn't follow Joan, because he had better traction than me, but I was a lot faster on the brakes," Espargaro said. "Finally in the last five laps, I couldn't stay with him. I checked the pit board and saw I had 4 seconds over Miller, so I decided to take the points."

The 13 points scored meant Espargaro moved ahead of new team-mate Maverick Vinales, who was holding seventh courtesy of the points scored as a Yamaha rider, and is now within 21-points of top KTM rider Brad Binder.

"We are very close to sixth place in the championship. I said at the beginning of the championship this was my biggest goal," said Espargaro. "My biggest dream obviously was the podium, but more important was to finish in the top six of the championship. So we are close.

"We have to continue staying and fighting for the podium every race. When you fight for the podium like today, you can also finish fifth, sixth, and if we have a very bad day, you can finish seventh.

"As we saw today also with the guy leading the championship, or Pecco last week. But most important is to be in the mix, near the top every weekend. So this weekend, apart from the fourth place in the race, I was always on the top. In the sessions, in the practices, so this is the important thing.

"We still have room to improve. The most important thing is not just the speed, it's the stability during the season, because what I want is to finish one day with Aprilia in the top three of the championship."

While Espargaro is competing in his fifth season at Aprilia, Vinales was making his RS-GP debut on Sunday.

Starting 19th, the Suzuki and Yamaha race winner spent the early stages fighting with former team-mate Valentino Rossi and his younger brother Luca Marini.

Vinales then upped his pace to close in on the group ahead, finishing half-a-second from the Pramac Ducati of Johann Zarco and 1.5s from Danilo Petrucci and the final point of 15th place.

But had he expected the 18s gap to Espargaro.

"Yes for sure, in the end starting from the back, in the first laps you lose so much, more than one second per lap," said Vinales. "But anyway, I kept concentrated and when I was alone the rhythm wasn't bad at all. It was quite close to the top guys.

"But there are points where we need to improve and also I need to understand more the bike, this is clear, to have the chance to push. Basically I think it was positive, I felt good on the bike, which is important, and I felt clearly where I have to improve."

And that area for improvement, as Vinales had explained earlier in the weekend, is corner entry, which is very different on the V4-powered Aprilia compared to the inline4 engines at Yamaha and Suzuki.

"Yes, I need to improve a lot the corner entry because I was used to do it in one way and now I need to change a little bit. And still I don’t have the confidence to do it. It will arrive for sure," he said.

"On traction area I felt quite good, and this is very positive, and also tyre life was good all the race. I could push until the last lap. So there are positive things even if the race wasn't perfect."

At Yamaha, Vinales often saw his victory chances ruined by a lack of grip in the opening part of the race.

At Aragon, he set his best lap on lap 10 of 23, later than any other rider, but explained that a lack of familiarity with the Aprilia in a race situation meant he was cautious in the early stages.

"I don’t know enough about the bike to push on the first laps. But at the end I had a good feeling with the bike, it was not bad at all, I just wasn't in a good position," Vinales said. If I started four rows ahead it's different.

"I did the same pace as I did in FP4, so I didn't feel I was losing grip and this is important too. In the beginning of the race when I felt a good potential on the bike I was limited because I had a few riders in front, also I didn't know the bike and how much I can push.

"But then in the middle of the race I felt quite nice. So I could ride well and at the end we were quite competitive.

"Okay, the result is the result, but for us these six races [before a full 2022 campaign] are like a wish. We can start working and understanding each other and this is the point; we have to work.

" We know it is very important to do one fast lap [for qualifying]. Also we are going to work on the points where I feel more weak and actually it was a little bit the going in to the corner.

"Basically the point is that I need to set up the bike a little bit in a different way. In the end I need to keep working and understanding the bike. I said yesterday the way of braking is very different and also the way to do the lap time too. So I need to learn a lot.

"I would like to be at the front from the first race but that's not fair! I need to work harder and I need to understand a bit more the bike. Step-by-step. There is going to be a point where we make a big step, that's clear."

Asked for his opinion on how Vinales was riding, from what he saw in the race, Valentino Rossi – who finished one place behind the #12 - replied:

"First of all I think it’s positive because I saw Maverick improve very much during the race and I the second half he had a quite good pace, not so far from the guys in front and he was able to improve," Rossi said.

"I don’t speak with Maverick directly but I hear that he had some problems with braking and entering, that in that area he is a bit in trouble with the Aprilia, but I think the bike has a good potential and Maverick is a top rider. So I think in the next races he will be very strong."

As well as his Aragon experience, Vinales will head into this weekend's Misano round with knowledge from a previous two-day private test on the RS-GP.