Motorsport.com chats to MotoGP's rising star Maverick Vinales as the Spaniard concludes his tenure with Suzuki, before departing to Yamaha to partner Valentino Rossi.
Maverick Vinales is the second youngest rider in the MotoGP field and is taking leaps forward at the same speed that he rides his Suzuki with.
This year, his second in the premier class, he looks set to finish a very credible fourth - and is still within reach of third-placed Jorge Lorenzo, the rider who he will be replacing at Yamaha next year.
In this interview with Motorsport.com, Vinales, who took his maiden victory at Silverstone earlier this season, says he feels ready for the biggest challenge of his career so far.
He insists he will start next season with the goal of taking the title, something that Valentino Rossi, his teammate at Yamaha, will not make an easy goal to achieve.
How do you rate your individual performance and the bike's performance this season?
Considering what we are achieving and given our position in the championship I would give myself between an 8.5 and a 9, and the same for the bike. We have grown together. Our goal this year was to finish sixth and I'm fourth - and still have the opportunity to be third.
What is the team missing to establish itself among the top ones?
It's lacking experience. Every race we feel better and that comes with experience. We have been at the front, fighting, in quite a few races, and but when the moment comes it's hard to get everything right.
From the outside, one gets the feeling that Suzuki is a team that's different than the rest, fresher and less strict.
I would say that we are like a family and that creates a very good atmosphere. Maybe in the other teams there is also that good feeling but you don't see it from the outside, but it's true that we are very united.
Are you sorry you are leaving?
I wouldn't say I'm sorry. At the start I had many doubts, leaving was a very tough decision. In any case, after having won a grand prix and scoring several podiums I don't feel so bad, because in a way I have returned the trust that the team put in me.
In what areas have you personally improved the most?
Compared to last year, especially in the riding, although that's also thanks to the step forward the bike has taken. Now I can push more. It's not the same to approach the weekend thinking 'let's see what I find', to doing it knowing that, in normal conditions, you can fight for the podium.
It was difficult approaching the races that way last year. The motivation is not the same when you know that your natural position is, say, 11th. To me it's very important to know that I can win, that makes me feel more at ease and be more focused.
Was Suzuki the best place for you to grow like you have?
If I could have used this bike last year, now I would possibly ride even better. But it's also true that being able to grow and learn in peace, without the pressure of having to get results, probably helps you make fewer mistakes.
In any case, when you make that jump is when you can fight in front consistently, against the fastest. Had I had this bike last year, maybe I could have fought for the title this season.
In the pre-season you admitted that you were eager to learn from the quickest. What have you learned from them?
I especially look at how their bikes work and that's very useful. For example: one weekend we have acceleration problems and we are focused on that, but in reality we are braking too early and we are losing time there.
When you are running with the fastest riders, you can see where you are and what your bike is missing. That helps a lot.
You were also curious about how aggressive you would have to be starting from the first places on the grid, especially on the first corners.
I'm starting pretty well, I imagined it would be that way. You have to be very aggressive to move up as much as you can and stay there. I would say it's probably the most important part in the majority of the races.
How many times have people warned you about what you will face next year at Yamaha, with Rossi as your teammate?
The only thing that will change is that I'll be riding a Yamaha and that the goals will be different. A teammate means having a reference and that way you know what the bike's level is. But it's obvious that he's the first one you have to beat.
Don't you feel extra pressure knowing that you are replacing Jorge Lorenzo and that you will be measured against Rossi?
Well, Aleix [Espargaro] has also been a very tough rival for us, because last year he was right there every weekend, and when that happens you give 200 percent.
What is the next step you have to take?
I have to join a team with more experience, which is what I'm missing. All the experience the technical team that I'll have next year has will help me a lot. Now I know what it's like to start in the front and be there all race long.