It is unfair to even think that any rider who can get a podium in the WorldSBK series in 2022 is somehow undeserving of it. But in reality unless Yamaha's Toprak Razgatlioglu had not broken down on Saturday at Misano Michael Rinaldi would have finished in a position other than third.
A true feather in has cap then for taking a clear third place, entirely of his and his crew’s own doing, in the second long race on Sunday afternoon at home.
He beat Jonathan Rea fair and square, which really had a cut-through to Rinaldi’s mood in the post-race press conference.
“For sure, I’m really, really happy,” he grinned. “I was really upset this morning because my pace in the warmup with a used tyre was good, then I went in the Superpole race and something was wrong with the bike. I rode one second slower than what I did in the warm-up on used tyre.
"But we knew that we were strong, so we decided to make a strategy. Push at the beginning like hell in Race Two, and we will see what happens. But when it was the fifth or seventh lap, I was finished. I had no more energy. But, I said, I need to focus and to relax and to do my pace, and I did that. Unbelievable. I am really, really happy.
"We have made a good improvement since the first rounds. Alvaro is doing another job at the moment. He’s so, so fast. But, if I look at myself and my side, I can be proud and happy. I think we need a few more races to maybe be there always. I want to dedicate this to all the fans, to my team, the Italian crowd, my family. It’s something special. I also feel that I have to give them something so I threw the helmet to the public!”
Yes, Rinaldi really did throw his own crash helmet into the crowd in celebration, making one local fan among the 65,000 plus who piled in over the weekend extra happy.
Rinaldi, like the rest outside the big three, is trying to find a way to split them op and even outdo them all at times, so beating Rea was at least a start to that ambition.
“At the moment, like I said many, many times, the level is so high, so high,” said Rinaldi, before explaining the point in a new way. “You don’t need to see if you are losing in braking of Toprak or the exit from the corner like Alvaro.
"I think you can never brake like Toprak, but you have to look at yourself and understand where you are missing the speed all around the lap. Then, step by step you can arrive there. If not, you will lose time. But it’s good because now we are on our way to make good races.”
Rinaldi feels that although Misano was a home round, with that additional impetus behind him, he can still take his recently discovered improvements in his set-up with him to the next few rounds at least.
“Yeah, absolutely yes,” he said. “This is what I have done since our Mugello test. I need a really good base. I work on small details. For sure, we already knew in Estoril we could be slow, but I want to look at the future and don’t just win a few races in one year, but I want to be consistent all the year. So, now I think we have a good base and we can start from here and making good good settings.”
The way Rinaldi got his podium on Sunday was pleasing, given that no one in front retired.
“It means a lot because I started from the back and no one in the front had an issue with the bike like yesterday. So, today we were stronger than yesterday. This proves that we step by step can arrive. So, I’m very happy. Yeah, it’s working. All the team really support me, so I want to thank them a lot.”
Andrea Dovizioso is big mates with Rinaldi and he was at Misano. What words of wisdom did he offer his little pal? “Dovi is really intelligent” said Rinaldi. “He said to me, ‘I don't know the tyres. I don't know the bike. You are doing the podium. I will not say something because maybe it’s not true.’ But, if I’m struggling, he helps me with his experience. Always we call a lot, every race. Today I looked to him after the finish line, to see him and my friends in the track was a really proud moment.”