That’s a semi-positive end to what’s been a difficult weekend here in Qatar, finishing ninth after how things started for me is a pretty decent result. Not what you’d want, but better than it was looking after Friday.
The pace and the feeling was generally pretty good on Friday, but we were just the other side of Q2 and I missed out by just over a hundredth of a second, so Q1 it was. I did a 1:53.3 with the first tyre which was decent, but had a small technical issue with the clutch on the second run, so I did the same lap time but lost a fair bit on the straights, it definitely wasn’t for a lack of effort to do that same time!
Saturday’s qualifying wasn’t my best one, I set up a target ahead of me as a reference on both my laps in Q1 but unfortunately caught them both times. Some of the boys were having some issues, some moments and what-not, so I caught the target and either had to try to pass or follow them the rest of the lap, so definitely felt I left some time on the table there. (Aprilia’s) Miguel (Oliveira), through no fault of his own he nearly had a high-side through Turn 5, and then he had another moment at Turn 9 and that’s what put me in the position to try to pass. His lap was almost done, and the racing line is so narrow here that to try to make a pass on a hot lap is almost impossible nowadays, so that was my lap done as well. Definitely frustrating. Being in Q1 is a bit of a disaster because this is what can happen, it’s a gamble back there. Not even of a tenth of a second off the old lap record, and there I am back in 16th on the grid …
The Sprint, it was hard to do much in 11 laps being way back on the grid, but the bike worked really well on Sunday for the Grand Prix. The pace this year here was really pretty incredible, to be running 1min 53s late in the race is pretty crazy. I couldn’t buy a 1:53 yesterday and I was doing them until around lap 18 today. I don’t know if the track got much better or what, but it seemed a bit easier for me today.
The pace was decent, and once I finally made some passes and got through on the group ahead of me I could go with (Yamaha’s) Fabio (Quartararo) and (Aprilia’s) Maverick Vinales, but those boys had just a little bit extra pace than me.
I was rather shocked when (Ducati’s) Enea (Bastianini) came past me and was doing 1:52s, that was a shock for me because I’d had quite a big gap and my lap times were pretty good. My pace was not terrible, I was one of the faster guys at the end of the race, but Enea came past me like I was f**king walking so that was a bit depressing!
It was weird being in Qatar to nearly finish the year off instead of starting it, but it’s a good place to come back to, and the new facilities they’ve built since we came early last year were pretty bloody impressive. We were only here at the beginning of last year, so that was cool to see. It’s awesome to see them invest in the place again like this. Everything was so new, and that’s the way they do it here. The original track was amazing when it was first built, but as we know places change over the years, and it seemed to me like they’d gone around the world to a lot of race tracks and taken the best out of every one to build this whole new facility. It was really impressive, I don’t think there’s a paddock like it anywhere else in the world.
We’ve got one more race to round this year out in Valencia and that’s one I always look forward to, it’s somewhere I generally go well so it’s one of my favourites. And then of course the post-season test on the Tuesday, hopefully we’ve got a fair few things to throw on the bike and give it a crack. I’m definitely looking forward to finishing the year out strong.