Stefan Bradl says his rookie MotoGP campaign exceeded both his and his LCR squad's expectations.
The satellite Honda team had struggled in 2011, with main rider Toni Elias finishing 15th in the championship and only breaking into the top eight in two of the season's 18 races.
Bradl was promoted to the race seat at the end of 2011 after beating Marc Marquez to that year's Moto2 championship. In contrast to Elias, he finished outside the top eight just once (barring retirements) and came within 0.048s of delivering the team what would have been its first podium since 2009 at Misano.
"I'm happy with the way my first season in MotoGP has gone," Bradl told Motosprint. "After all, it's gone better than I had expected. I mean, better than what my father and [team manager] Lucio [Cecchinello] thought too.
"We had thought I would always be around the ninth position at the finish. Instead, it has gone better: I even scored some fourth and fifth places. Also, in a couple of races the team and I did a really good job. Just think that, when you talk about certain positions, we are talking about top riders. And I'm not one of them yet, I'm just trying to become one.
"Adapting to this series requires a long process and in my opinion no one can do it in just one season. I've tried to train and prepare well, to always keep a certain level of physical shape, and I honestly think I've done a good job."
Bradl, who recently agreed a two-year deal to compete as a Honda factory supported rider, insisted he was not getting carried away with his debut season.
"Obviously, it's clear first of all to me that 2012 must be considered a starting point: next year I need to take a step forward, obviously by getting closer and closer to my team. It's fundamental if you want to go far," he said.
"Together, the team and I need to shave off half a second a lap, and in a consistent way; that is, in every lap of a practice session and obviously in the race. This is the next objective. By carrying on this road the time will come for me to step on the podium. At some tracks we got really close this year already."