It's been a good weekend here in Portugal, all in all. OK, to say I'm massively happy with a seventh would be telling porky pies because we were there running with those boys at the front a lot of the way and I felt like I could continue on with that pace, but it was a weekend where I felt I learned a lot on the KTM, and what happened in the race was my fault. A small thing, but it's still my fault.
I made a small mistake, maybe 10 laps from the end, maybe it was more … but anyway, I missed a gear shift at Turn 5 and allowed (Ducati's Alex) Marquez to come through, ran a little bit deep, and then I was getting frustrated behind him. I tried everything I could to pass him and put a bit of daylight between us, but that Ducati power on the straight – I'm on the other side of the table now so I know how the others felt these last few years! – look, I just couldn't do it. So seventh was where it ended, but I'm happy enough to come out of here with points in both races, avoiding any stupid manoeuvres, staying out of trouble ... Maybe not as many points as Pecco (Bagnaia) takes out of here, but it's a long season – I mean, there's still 40 races to go!
It was a great race for me in terms of understanding and learning the bike, because that's the most laps I've done on it. Knowing more about its strengths, its weaknesses, the aero – it was valuable for that. The bike has decent power, but in fifth gear, into a headwind like we had today, it drags a whole heap. Not something I knew before today. Because testing is so limited these days, I felt like I learned a lot today, understanding how the bike drops with tyre wear late in the race … all that sort of thing is going to benefit me in the long run.
Coming into any new season, you're excited, you're nervous, you never really know what's going to happen – and this season with the sprint races and the most races we've ever had, there's a lot of unknowns ahead.
The sprint race … I think we can say it was a success. I enjoyed it a lot and it was a big fight with all the boys, nobody was really able to break away. I threw my nose in there to lead for a little bit, so there was a lot to enjoy. My plan was to go flat-out and see what happened, so fourth was a good start. The heart rate felt like it was up around 190 (beats per minute) the whole time! A lot of fun.
I'm not someone who's a good test rider, I'm a racer through and through. I don’t find the need to throw laps at it in testing, I enjoy taking the risk when it's worth something. I'm not someone who's going to risk life and limb when there's a race 10 days later …
People were writing us off – I was reading the internet after the test, don't worry – but the engineers and everybody have been working tirelessly, and I've enjoyed the process too. The set-up, the geometry of the bike – we're pretty set with that now – but the electronics are a lot better than the previous times I've ridden the bike. Every time we go out, they get better. And then there's the confidence that comes with seat time from riding the bike. Add all of those things together, and we've made good progress.
The bike feels more my own every exit I do, corner by corner, lap by lap. I'm getting the feedback I'm wanting, so I have to say a massive thank you to KTM for listening to me and my gibberish ...