Newly-crowned MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez has branded main title rival Andrea Dovizioso as an ‘incredible opponent’, and was disappointed not to celebrate with him on the podium.
Marquez came into the final round of the 2017 season 21 points clear of the Italian, and needed simply to finish inside the top 11 if Dovizioso were to win.
Unfortunately, Dovizioso never made it to the chequered flag, as a mistake at Turn 8 in the closing stages saw him run onto the gravel and drop his Ducati.
The Spaniard – who took the chequered flag in third to win the championship by 37 points – praised Dovizioso‘s title tilt, as well as the sportsmanship he and his Ducati team displayed, while also revealing what battling the Italian taught him as a rider.
“I’m disappointed he didn’t finish the race today, because he was an incredible opponent, incredible person,” said Marquez, who is now MotoGP‘s youngest-ever four-time world champion.
“I have a really good relationship with him, especially also the Ducati guys; I saw on the big screens they go to my box to congratulate the mechanics. Full respect.
“This is very, very nice, and I learn many, many things from Andrea.
“I learn especially mental thing, the way to approach the weekend, the way to approach the race, that you need to understand well and forget the others.
“And this is something not many people can do, and he is one of the best ones to control that.”
Marquez’s title bid was nearly derailed six laps from the end when he ran into the first corner too quickly and lost the front under braking, though he miraculously save the incident and safely navigated his way out of the gravel trap.
The moment – which dropped him to fifth before the Dovizioso and Jorge Lorenzo crashed in front of him – was the result of pressure from Tech3’s Johann Zarco, as he was ‘scared’ to let the Frenchman try a potentially dangerous move.
“When I was behind him I was able to be much faster, and I was losing the concentration,” said Marquez.
Twitter: DRAMA!!! Marquez runs on at turn one after a MASSSSSSIVE save!
He rejoins in 5th! #FinalShowdown https://t.co/nt4Lsy01UR (@MotoGP)
“I was doing some stupid mistakes because I was not riding on my way.
“Then he did a mistake and I overtook, but I was he was aggressive, and for that reason I did the mistake into the first corner because, when I pass him in the last corner, I was scared because I feel like his bike was close and I tried to brake later for try to avoid critical moment.
“But I put myself in a critical moment, and when I lose the front I say ‘OK, I will stay with my bike and we will see where we finish.
“Suddenly, when I was already down, I pull up the bike. Somebody say today that I need to stay on the bike and I stay.
“I changed that moment, and I said ‘OK, I need to finish the race.’”