Johann Zarco admitted he was left “very frustrated” during the Catalan Grand Prix as his hard-compound rear tyre failed to give him a grip advantage in the closing stages.
The Pramac Ducati rider opted to take a different direction in tyre choice to the rest of the front-runners – who all took the medium rear – in order to try and enjoy a late race pace gain in the simmering 50 degrees-Celsius track temperatures seen at the Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya.
Having remained well in-range of the second and third placed machines of Aleix Espargaro and team-mate Jorge Martin, the Frenchman suffered the inverse of his expectations as he began to struggle for rear grip, thus dropping back into what looked to be a safe fourth.
This became third when Aprilia’s Espargaro believed the race had finished a lap early and rolled off, though Zarco accepts that a third rostrum of the year was “a gift” after his gamble failed to pay off.
“From the start I saw (Takaaki) Nakagami pretty fast, so when he crashed I was just happy to go between the bikes,” explained Zarco.
“Pol (Espargaro) started fast but I was quicker than him so I could overtake him immediately, and then I was in fourth so I tried to stay behind Aleix (Espargaro) and (Jorge) Martin because at the beginning I was missing a bit of speed.
“I tried to control the rear tyre and was not spinning a lot, but then with ten laps to go and then even five laps left I didn’t get the advantage (of hard rear tyre) and it was actually opposite and I started to lose even more in acceleration.
“When I understood that I couldn’t fight for the podium I was very frustrated, it’s a place that I can’t feel good and I had a different strategy from the others but still couldn’t get the advantage.
“Fabio (Quartararo) was much faster and went away, but I was the only one with the hard rear tyre so I expected to get an advantage later in the race.
“It was hard to not finish on the podium, but it (Espargaro slowing down) was a nice gift on the last lap, I thought he had a technical problem and when I understood he was celebrating I tried to get my focus back and finish my lap.
“It wasn’t easy because I didn’t know how quickly he restarted, because he was strong at the end I hoped he wouldn’t overtake me again so I tried to close the line but I was spinning so much.
“Then I saw Martin still pushing and realised I still had one more lap to do, it was a great surprise so I just wanted to make sure I secured it.”