Third for the second time in a week, an awesome way to finish the season, my best-ever world championship finish and being here on the final race for Vale (Valentino Rossi) – Valencia with a crowd like today is pretty special, so it was one to remember to finish off the season.
The race … I was trying to save the tyre at the beginning, the boys out front were going for it and I was a bit concerned with the pre-race predictions on tyre wear, so I was being a bit conservative in the long left of Turn 13 and even Turn 1. The problem with this place sometimes though is that when one guy comes past you can lose some rhythm, so I fell back to sixth around eight laps in and it didn’t look great. I wasn't going to need to worry about tyres if I'd dropped back much more! So I was able to get going again and work my way forwards to third – it was good towards the end there but I ran out of time, and any time you finish less than second off a win you wonder what might have been.
I just really wanted to finish today. Last lap, I was planning on having a go at Jorge (Martin) but I forgot to engage the ride-height device coming out of the last corner onto the start-finish straight … so that was that. But three Ducatis on the podium, that's never happened before … that bodes super well for 2022 as well.
Today was a good way to secure fourth for me in the championship, and a good way to sign off on a year I'm pretty happy with. Fourth is three places better than last year, so if I do that again next year … you can do the maths. Something to aim for!
Looking at the season as a whole, I probably left a lot of points on the table – similar to last year. At the second Misano race I was third in the championship, up until I threw it in the gravel. There were other races too, there's a lot that goes into a championship, and we had a lull there around Assen, Austria. But all in all it's been another step in the right direction, I had a couple of wins, and next year we'll try to make another step again.
I have to give a lot of credit to the team too this year – that's two constructors' championships in a row now, the teams' championship this weekend … last year we had one championship, this year two, and hopefully next year we can do the triple crown. The bike has been getting better and better every year, and the things we've already tried for the '22 bike look positive already. I'm pretty excited to get to Jerez next weekend for the test so we can see what the 2022 bike has in store for us. I think there was some doubt from outside coming into this year with Ducati completely changing their riders and coming in with two young guys like me and Pecco (Bagnaia), but we've been able to step up to the mark. It’s one of their better years in recent Ducati history, and I think it shows management did the right decision.
Back to Vale, because he was THE story this weekend. For me, all the old memories kept coming back the more we were asked about him. I mean, he's been racing world championship about as long as I've been on Planet Earth – it's pretty impressive when you think of it that way. You remember things like the times you raced him on track. The first race I really raced against him was Sachsenring in 2016 when it was drying up, that was a good memory. Being on the podium with him in Texas in 2019 was something I never thought would happen, so that was super special. Vale has been the absolute benchmark, and for so long. We throw the word 'legend' around a lot these days but Vale's a true definition of a legend, and to be honest I don't think any of us would be how we are without him.
It got overshadowed because of Vale leaving, but we said goodbye to my old teammate Danilo Petrucci too. I shared a box with Danilo for two years at Pramac and it was fantastic, he's a great teammate and we had a great atmosphere together. We're both pretty similar, easy-going guys with similar characters, and we got along really well. He made a lot of sacrifices to be where he was and won a couple of races ... he's a true racer and he deserves a lot of respect for what he's done.
Also it was super cool to see Remy (Gardner) wrap up the Moto2 title on Sunday. Just awesome to see another Aussie up there. Remy's really come on this year and what impressed me was how he gritted his teeth and dug his heels in at Portimao the last race and took it to Raul (Fernandez) – it was impressive to see. That was a really defining moment, and I honestly felt proud watching that as it was good to see an Aussie knuckling down and getting it done, it was a very Aussie way of doing it. It'll be cool for the Aussie fans to have me and Remy up in MotoGP next year, and young Joel Kelso in Moto3 as well. The more Aussies we can get in here, the better I reckon. Huge congrats to him.
So we're off to Jerez for a couple of days of testing at the end of the week, and then it's back home and I can’t wait for that. I'll have a bit more to say about that this week too, by the way. Anyway, thanks for all the support this season and we'll do it all again – and hopefully a bit better – next year.