Aleix Espargaro says he was “hoping for a little bit more” on the debut of Aprilia’s updated RS-GP21 in the Qatar Grand Prix, having taken the chequered flag seventh.
Aprilia’s evolved challenger displayed impressive speed during the five pre-season test days held at the same Losail International Circuit as well as in practice, Espargaro having posted several top five times across the various sessions.
Having qualified eighth just over half a second from pole, hopes were high that Aprilia could finally join the leading runners and potentially achieve its first top five since the marque returned to premier class competition in 2015.
A lack of early race speed and excessive front tyre wear ultimately meant Espargaro was limited to a seventh place finish-albeit just 5.9 seconds down on race winner Maverick Vinales- though the Spaniard insists he is “satisfied” with the promise of the RS-GP despite not being able to join the battle for the rostrum.
“Obviously I’m happy and satisfied but I was hoping for a little bit more, one thing that is clear is that Massimo (Rivola, Aprilia Racing CEO) told to not make any mistakes and get the bike to the end because the bike is young and we need to have some data from the early races,” said Espargaro.
“Today was not a day to take risks, I made a good start but then lost a lot of positions in Turn 2, so step by step I started recovering some positions and then with Joan (Mir) I arrived at the lead group but I couldn’t overtake anyone so I just stayed there and wasn’t able to fight for the podium.
“I missed a little bit of speed at the end of the race, I didn’t feel confident with the front tyre but it’s just the beginning so from here I think we can build a strong season and I’m sincerely satisfied with the bike.”
Espargaro outlined a couple of key areas he felt could be key to scoring a stronger result in this weekend’s Doha GP at the same Losail circuit, chiefly improving front tyre wear as well as finding a little more top end speed to assist with overtaking on the courses 1km front straight.
“We have to work a little bit on the front of the bike, I’m not really worried about the rear tyre consumption that was pretty OK, the other riders suffered more than us on the rear but we struggled on the front,” continued Espargaro.
“I know it’ll be difficult to solve for next week but I suffered a lot in sixth gear on the straight with top speed, but hopefully we’ll find something.”