Marco Simoncelli said his fourth place at Estoril "felt like a podium" even though he was denied the final rostrum spot by Andrea Dovizioso on the final straight.
Gresini Honda rider Simoncelli has repeatedly come close to a breakthrough first MotoGP podium in recent races, and looked like he might get there today when he dived past Dovizioso's factory Honda for third at the chicane on the last lap.
But Dovizioso was able to tuck back in behind Simoncelli and drafted in front on the run out of the final corner.
"I am really pleased with my race today," said Simoncelli. "We did everything right and I was able to maintain a good rhythm from the start to the end.
"Dovizioso was a little bit faster than me on the straights but I still thought I could beat him. Unfortunately, I made a tiny mistake in the final turn and lost a little bit of speed onto the straight, which gave him the advantage over the line.
"It was a shame but I am still delighted because this feels almost as good as a podium to us.
"Over the last four or five races I have been consistently on the pace from Friday practice and we did it again here at Estoril. Obviously, we still have to work to improve the bike, especially the electronics, if we want to be on the podium but maybe we can do that at Valencia."
Team boss Fausto Gresini reckons Simoncelli has now proved that he is among the very best MotoGP riders.
"I am really satisfied today with the progress shown by Simoncelli," said Gresini. "He had a wonderful race and showed that he is reaching the top level of MotoGP.
"I think fourth place is an excellent result for a rookie – it is just a shame he didn't make it onto the podium because he was there right up until the exit from the final corner. Anyway, it's still a good result.
"Now we need to think about what we have to do next to help him continue with the progress that led to this result. Congratulations to 'Sic' – I am happy and proud to be working with him."
Gresini's other rider Marco Melandri had another depressing race, falling back from sixth on the grid to finish ninth – over a minute behind the leaders.
"I am disappointed and upset because nothing has gone our way since the start of the season," said Melandri, who will leave MotoGP for a Yamaha World Superbike ride after next week's Valencia race.
"I don't know what else to say and I don't want to start talking about why this is happening to us. All I can say is that I am very disappointed."