Andrea Dovizioso has admitted it was an “obligation” for him to win the opening round of the 2018 MotoGP season in Qatar after taking a narrow victory over Marc Marquez.
Ducati rider Dovizioso went into the season opener as favourite based on his pace in both pre-season testing and in practice, despite the fact he qualified only fifth.
But the Italian had to win the hard way, after becoming embroiled in a late scrap with 2017 title adversary Marquez in the closing stages – winning by just 0.027s after repelling an assault by the Honda rider at the last corner.
Dovizioso conceded the pressure was on him going into the race, and said the fact the finish with Marquez was such a close-run thing was the “bad part” of his triumph.
“I did three second positions [in previous years in Qatar], so before I came here it was like an obligation to win here,” he told BT Sport.
“The bike worked very well so it was easier than in the past. Our front [tyre] worked very well, our bike and my riding style worked really good for the tyre.
“But the rear was very soft, softer than the softest last year. That’s why we didn’t push for three quarters of the race; that’s why when [Johann] Zarco was in front, nobody pushed.
“In the last laps when I wanted to make the difference, because I was controlling the race, I didn’t have the grip. I did a laptime, a low [1m]55s, but it wasn’t enough to create a gap.
“That is the bad part of the race, because it confirms Honda has improved the bike and Marc is there.”
Dovizioso remained cautious on his championship prospects, highlighting the need to back up his Qatar win with strong showings in the next two races in Argentina and the US.
“We just confirmed the feeling I had before the race, so it’s not news,” he added. “The next rounds will be very important for us to make a good result because I think it will be very difficult.
"It will be important to understand our level for the championship. For sure we have a little bit better bike than last year, we confirmed this winter and this weekend, but it’s not enough when there are so many fast riders.”