It's so great to be back up on the podium here in France after being up there in the battle the last two races, that's for sure. I just hadn't been able to do anything with it, until today anyway. Finishing second, that's my best result since I won here last year, and it's amazing how one result can turn things around. It felt like a reward for the hard work the team and me had been putting in.
I was 11th in the championship coming into this race, but it was so tight and I'd already done the others a favour by not finishing two races. This time it was some of the others who didn't get to the end, I get on the podium, and bang – up to fifth place. That's not going to happen every race, but I do feel I'm back where I should be now. Makes a good day even better.
The boys rode a strong race up the front and (Ducati teammate) Pecco (Bagnaia) clearly wanted to pass me early on after I'd beaten him off the start, and he had a bit better speed than me. I wasn't going to fight him too hard, and I felt we could work together and get away from the others. I had good grip with the soft front tyre but I wasn't able to really push like I wanted on the right-hand side, but I'd made my mind up that I was definitely going to race the soft front even though it was pretty hot and some of the other boys changed at the last minute. Every time I tried the medium front tyre this weekend I fell off, so that 100 per cent wasn't an option for me for the race. Used the medium twice, crashed twice. Didn't want to make it three. At least with the soft, I was able to understand where I was on the tyre.
I saw (Enea) Bastianini was coming and he put the move on me, and I didn't have anything for him so was back to third. Pecco then fell off which got me back to second, and it was all about keeping my head from there. Aleix (Espargaro) behind me had his hands full with Fabio (Quartararo) so it was all about me making no mistakes and doing what I had to.
Enea's always so strong at the end of the race – he did it to me late in the race in Austin and he's done it some other times too – he's got good drive, he's good on the tyres and he rode the perfect race, I think. Didn't make any mistakes – maybe started firing it into a few corners a bit deep later on, definitely at Turn 8! But congrats to him, he did an awesome race. He's won three races now this year, he's doing a fantastic job, he's riding a Ducati, he's Italian … his future looks pretty good, I'd say.
The pace was pretty red-hot all weekend really, on Saturday even from practice the pace felt unreal. The grip was there and the way you could use the tyre was impressive, and I ended up on the front row here again. You almost had too much grip! Le Mans seems to like me, because that's inside the top four in qualifying the last four times we've been here. To break a lap record in qualifying, one that had stood for basically five years by more than half a second … it's impressive. Pecco just got me in qualifying so fair play to him, I was right behind him on his pole lap so I had the best seat in the house really. To be second … my lap was pretty loose so there wasn't much more time to be had than that!
It's so good to be back on the box, and amazing to do it in front of this unreal French crowd – it took me ages to come in on the cool-down lap because I wanted to give them all a wave and a rev-up because they'd been awesome all weekend. After no fans here for a couple of years, seeing 100,000 of them was pretty special, so I wanted to say thanks to everyone and let them know we appreciate them all coming out … it was just a good weekend.
Mugello's next, and I'll speak to you from there.