Francesco Bagnaia says he had to “push like a lion” as he endeavored to hold off eventual Dutch TT winner Fabio Quartararo in the early stages of the contest.
Bagnaia snatched the lead away from Quartararo with a bold move at Turn 10 on the opening circulation before using the power of his Ducati to hold off the Yamaha rider across the first four laps, eventually losing out to the Frenchman as he quickly escaped up the road.
His spirited defence would eventually come back to bite him though as he received a long-lap penalty for exceeding track limits on several occasions, dropping him initially to eighth before recovering to sixth after holding off Marc Marquez and Aleix Espargaro in the closing tours.
Bagnaia says that it was “impossible” to do any more to hold off the flying Quartararo, but reckoned he could have perhaps finished on the rostrum had he not have had to serve the long-lap punishment.
“I think that was maybe the hardest race of my MotoGP career, I struggled from the first session of the weekend and I tried to improve,” said Bagnaia.
“I finally found something gin FP3 and Q2 that helped me a lot, but to fight with the Yamaha was impossible.
“I pushed like a lion to stay in front of Fabio (Quartararo) but today it was very difficult, trying to stay in front of him I got a long-lap penalty which I did and afterwards my pace was very close to the others so it was really hard to recover.
“I did the maximum, and maybe without the long-lap I could have had P3 or P4 and in the end we were sixth, so all in all I’m happy I gave my all.
“Fabio did a great job for his championship today, so we’ll try and reset for after the summer break and we’ll start again in Austria trying to fight him again because at the moment he and Yamaha are a step in front of us.”
Miller’s day ended with frustrating slow-speed crash
Ducati team-mate Jack Miller meanwhile saw his title chances take a dent due to a slow-speed crash at Turn 5 at around mid-distance that dropped him to the rear of the pack, though he was forced to pull in and retire after receiving the mechanical meatball flag due to smoke poured from his Desmosedici.
The Aussie reckoned he could have got involved in the battle for the final step on the podium prior to his crash, which he says was caused by him pre-empting a crash between Joan Mir and Takaaki Nakagami as the former dived through on the latter at the bend, adding that the incident will now “eat at” him until the next round of the series in Austria after the summer break.
“I was settled into the race and felt reasonably good, me and Miguel (Oliveira) had a decent pace but I could see Pecco (Bagnaia) and that were a bit further up the road and I could see my gap was staying the same to Miguel but I was reeling the guys in front in, so I felt really good,” explained Miller.
“(Joan) Mir went underneath Taka (Nakagami) at Turn 5 and contact was imminent, so I picked myself up to make sure I could avoid something and as I got off the brakes a little earlier I went in without as much force on the front tyre and as soon as I tried to turn in it just went on me.
“These kind of first gear, front end crashes just eat at you and now I’ve got five weeks to deal with it.”
Miller revealed that the smoke that got him pulled out of the encounter early was only oil being burnt off from his exhaust as a result of his earlier crash, though conceded the damage to his race “had already been done.”
“I tried to remount, we have an overflow catch can on the bike and when it goes over the oil needs to go somewhere and we have a pipe in the exhaust where it burns off, and due to the smoke they thought it was leaking oil so they gave me the meatball flag and that was that,” added Miller.
“The damage was already done when I crashed so we just need to make sure we don’t do any of that in the second half of the season, we start off with two Austria races and I’m looking forward to getting there, I was looking for more today but we’ll have to take it and move forward.”
Bagnaia is now 47 points adrift of series leader Quartararo having led the championship early on-the lack of a rostrum since the Spanish Grand Prix in early May not helping his title tilt-while Miller fell to fifth overall as a result of his crash a further nine points behind.