Andrea Dovizioso praised Honda's efforts to turn its form around after he claimed a podium finish in the season opener at Losail - despite his team having been off the pace in testing.
Honda appeared to be some way adrift of Ducati and Yamaha during the pre-season build-up, and was not among the front runners in practice in Qatar either.
But Dovizioso had a highly competitive race, challenging Valentino Rossi for the lead for a while, and finishing only 1.8 seconds adrift. He pointed out that 12 months ago he had been nearly half a minute adrift at the end of the Qatar race and down in fifth, so hopes this weekend's result will set the tone for a better second season in the factory Honda line-up.
"It's a really good result and really important for us, because last year we did not finish so well," said Dovizioso. "Now we are just 1.8s behind. This is a consequence of all the hard work from Honda, all the people in the team and those working hard at home. This is so important for the start of the season, and I hope it's just the start."
He rued small errors that allowed Rossi to make a break, and Jorge Lorenzo to beat him to second.
"In some places I lost too much and I could recover a little bit on the straight," Dovizioso said. "I made a small mistake, and at the same time Valentino decided to push 100 per cent. I couldn't catch Valentino again.
"The last two laps, Jorge also overtook me because at Turn 10 I had a little problem and lost a lot - Nicky [Hayden] and Jorge overtook me at corner 12. I couldn't keep the second position to the finish, but the podium is a good start."
Dovizioso eventually reclaimed third by beating Hayden's Ducati over the line by just 0.011s.
"I tried to overtake Nicky on the inside, so Nicky didn't make the perfect exit, and our bike was a little bit faster than the Ducati," Dovizioso explained. "We are on the same level on acceleration, but my bike was working a bit better and I could get the podium."