That was more like it, back on the podium here in Portimao and for me, the first time up there for a fair while. About time I made the most of one of these decent qualifying positions! It was a big old fight with (Alex) Marquez, but it feels so good to be back on the podium for the first time since Catalunya in June.
Even better, Ducati wrapped up the constructors' championship here today and that's 21 podiums for us this year, so that's awesome. My teammate Pecco (Bagnaia) was in a class of his own all weekend, so it was good to be able to spray some champagne up there with him this time.
I went with the medium rear tyre this week – no way me and Pecco were going the hard one after that bit us in Misano – and I was trying to manage it in the middle part of the race and I had a moment into Turn 5 and ran a bit deep. I had to keep calm, there were still 14 laps to go and I had to time it right if I was going to get back to third. I got back in front of Alex at Turn 5 with six laps left, and I felt I had it under control for the last two laps but then we got a red flag because of the crash with (Iker) Lecuona and Miguel (Oliveira), I'm glad to hear those boys are OK. So we never did get to see whether I had the tyre for the final lap to hang on to third and it's a bit weird to go to the podium when you've had a red flag, but I'll take it after these last few races.
We've been here in Portimao three times now in the last year and it's a really fun track, on any bike really but especially a MotoGP bike it's pretty incredible. The goal for this weekend was really to see it through – as you saw the last few weekends we were strong up until 2pm Sunday afternoon and we didn't make the most of it. It was another solid Saturday for me, the fourth time in five races that I was second on the grid, but that wouldn't have meant a lot unless I made it count on Sunday. We've had such good pace these last few weeks and just haven't been able to translate it to points, so the bike has the potential, the rider has the potential … we just had to get it sorted on the right day this time. Finally, I managed it.
One other thing that definitely enjoyable was having Casey (Stoner) in the Ducati box with us this weekend, and me and Pecco both said it was helpful having someone like him around. I mean, I've worked with some spotters around the track and whatnot to help with my riding in the past but Casey is hardly your average spotter, the guy is a legend and one of the best to ever do it.
Where Casey's good is that he's methodical, he's precise with how he explains things. Just puts things across that he's noticed in the right way, gets straight to the point. It'd be nice to have him here all the time of course but unless they move all the races back home for him (and me) ... he's got a young family and lives on the other side of the world, and I know how far that is, believe me. It might be too hard for something more permanent. but I'd be all for it if it happened. Having him here makes me realise that maybe there's something missing in our program that someone like him could help with ... and if it couldn't be Casey, then maybe someone else doing a similar thing.
It definitely felt different coming here with the championship decided and the pressure was all off, really. For my championship it was a shame (Joan) Mir was ahead of me on Sunday so I can't get to third overall now, but fourth is still better than I've ever been and that's the goal for Valencia in a week from now, that and the teams' championship. Another podium would go alright too…