That was a hot one, and riding here in Austin in October is a different story than when we're normally here in April, that's for sure. Like last time in Misano I finished in one position and then a penalty lifted me a position higher – it's a story you've heard before …
I crossed the line eighth at the end but you all saw what happened with (Joan) Mir on the last lap. It was like last time in Misano all over again. I got hit, lost spots to two guys … at Misano he got pushed back a place for track limits, and here it was one place for irresponsible riding. Race direction did what they did with him, so there's not much more to say about it really. I was struggling with my front tyre, I tried to protect the line … but you can't protect when someone runs into the side of you, can you? I swear, every time I race with the guy he seems to run into me. It's not just the last two races either. I think there's better ways you can go about the situation. I was fading at the end of the race, don't get me wrong, but that didn't need to happen.
Fortunately I was able to stay on the bike and I felt I controlled myself rather well afterwards. Maybe I'm getting older and more mature, that's a nice sign you could say…
The race itself, I was the only rider to use the hard rear tyre because I knew I needed to have something to attack with late in the race starting from way back in 10th after qualifying went badly for me. The rear tyre held up fine, but I was more surprised that the soft rear that most of the rest of the guys used held up as well as it did because it was so hot out there. In the end, I was more limited by the right side of my soft front tyre, so that made the right-handers harder for me the longer the race went. The left side was fine which was good as I could defend at the end of the back straight, but the right-handers were a battle from about halfway through.
The first half of the race was good and I was able to get up to fourth there for a few laps, but then I was taking different lines to try to take some of the load off the front tyre and (Jorge) Martin started moving away from me in third, so I knew that the podium was pretty much gone at that point. I was struggling by that stage so it was an easy decision to let my teammate Pecco (Bagnaia) through, he has a championship to fight for and there's nothing to be gained for him and for us in the teams' championship by making it too hard for him when he was clearly faster at that point. He caught me, I was struggling, so it made no sense to f**k his race up any more so I waved him by. One less overtake for him to do made it easier for the teams' championship, and Pecco was able to limit the damage to Fabio (Quartararo) in the riders' championship as best he could.
Saturday night after qualifying was so frustrating for me was all about calming down, considering the job I had to do for the race. I remembered what 'Dovi' (Andrea Dovizioso) did on the Ducati the last time we raced here in 2019, when he got knocked out in Q1 and started 13th but finished fourth and was coming on strong at the end, I was fading in front of him and just about held on for the podium. I had to first concentrate on getting away cleanly from back in 10th – never easy here but possible – and then get in with the front guys as early as I could and stay there. The start went alright but I got boxed in at the car park in the first corner, but I was able to get to fourth pretty quickly before I wasn't able to ride 100 per cent how I wanted to after about 10-11 laps.
For the championship, it was Mir and (Johann) Zarco I had to get ahead of, and they were both starting in front of me. So at least that happened, and I'm now up to fourth overall which is better than I've ever done before. Three races to go to defend that now and see if I can move forwards.
Anyway, it was really good to be back at COTA for the first time in so long, over two and a half years. It felt like even longer, especially when you think that the last time we were here was just my second MotoGP podium! Being back in America was definitely enjoyable, and it makes me look forward to even more of a 'normal' calendar next year so I can get back for a home race as well.
I'll talk to you from Misano after a couple of weekends off.