Let's say that was not the best day, but not the worst either. Finishing sixth after the way things have been going lately would normally make me happier, but I felt there was more out there for us in Japan.
You all saw what happened with the red flag, and we were set to go again with the restart and I felt like I could definitely move forwards from sixth. I made a couple of tweaks to the bike and really thought I could challenge those boys up the front once we got going again, but I guess we never did … it wasn't to be. I wanted more, I felt like I could have got more, so there were a fair few swear words when the red flag came out again. For safety they made that choice, and we have to stick with it.
Once it rained and we needed to do the bike swap, I was always going with the soft (rear rain tyre) even though not many of us did. After the experience of last year the medium didn't work too great unless it was half-wet, half-dry – with that amount of water like today, I think the soft was the right choice. I was conserving the tyre and was using a soft-as-all-buggery (engine) map at the beginning, you could see the guys were passing me on all the exits of the corners. But there was a long way to go, 15 laps if it was going the duration, so I was just trying to save the centre of the tyre. As it started really raining, my tyre was still in good condition and I was coming back towards the guys at the front. But yeah, a red flag … and then a parade lap there at the end. We stayed on the bike, I was happy enough that we finished the race, and it is what it is.
All in all though, it was definitely a better weekend. Qualifying third on the new chassis, that sort of feeling was how I was feeling after the test on Monday after Misano. India was what it was, and that wasn't great. But coming here – of course, I'd had good results at Motegi in the past so that helps – but in general this track has a lot of grip, and I was able to use the bike the way we wanted to and play with it quite a bit, which makes it fun to ride. We've been getting better and better every session to be on the front row, first time since Silverstone, so that made us pretty confident.
Being up there with these boys again in the Sprint was nice. I had a few issues trying to stop the bike and did what I could to protect myself in braking from my old mate Pecco (Bagnaia), but finally had a little moment at the bottom of the hill and I left the door open for him, and that was my downfall with only a couple of laps left. It was pretty stressful! But in general I was really happy with the performance, the pace was good and the bike had worked all day. You're never satisfied with fourth – you're always striving to do better – but it was a good day, especially after the couple of weekends we'd had coming in. Wasn't too far off at all.
It's always good to come back to somewhere where you won the last time, the memories came back pretty strong as soon as we got here to Japan. It'd been a tough few rounds for me, but you can see we're fighting massively to get back up the front again. We'd definitely plateaued a bit. The other guys had been improving race by race and we'd kind of stood still, so this weekend is hopefully what we needed to finish off these last six races the right way.
Japan is one of those events you always enjoy coming to, definitely. Part of it is because of the fans, because they're some of the most passionate ones we have around the world. Doesn't matter if the weather is really good or really bad – like Sunday! – and it can vary so much here. But they're always here in numbers and always happy to see us, so it's one we all enjoy.
As you can imagine I was pretty keen to get home and see my girls before we head to Indonesia for the next one in a couple of weeks, so it was a race to the airport on Sunday after I'd dried out! It'll be good to get stuck into that in a couple of weeks, and then it's my home GP – there's a lot to look forward to in this part of the season, that's for sure.