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Andrea Iannone was unlucky to crash out of the opening round of the 2017 MotoGP world championship, while fighting for a podium finish onboard his Suzuki GSX-RR.

The Italian started the race from the front row of the grid after qualifying in second place, and led the way into turn one. After a flurry of overtakes, he was shuffled back to third place as the race settled down, but was eager to make his way forward again.

He launched an attack for second place, which was repelled. Gearing up for another attempt, he made a mistake and made contact with the rider in front, and crashed out of his podium position.

However, he and the team are happy with the speed and performance shown during the race, and will take that potential to the next round in Argentina.

Iannone said afterwards, "I’m very sorry for the crash because I wasted a positive race.

"After the test, we continued improving, even here at the weekend. My feeling is not yet at 100% but we have room for improvement, which is a positive thing.

"The truth is that I made a mistake. I hit another rider which caused my crash. It’s a shame because I could be even faster and I had a good chance. I have to blame myself for the mistake. May this be a lesson to myself for the future. I have to wait for a better situation to pass a slower rider and not to be so impulsive.

"Suzuki had worked really hard during winter for me. They are giving me a performing machine, they have trust in me, and I really want to pay them back in the best way with better results."

His teammate, Alex Rins, enjoyed a solid debut to his MotoGP career, finishing in a strong ninth place to claim top rookie honours.

The young Spaniard started the race from 18th on the grid, but had progressed to 12th by the time he exited the first corner. From there, he continued to improve, and a last lap overtake saw him end his debut race inside the top 10.

He said, "My feeling is that it’s been an incredible race. I’ve learnt a lot more than in practice.

"At the beginning, I made a really good start. Then, in the race, it was a little hard for me to overtake faster racers. I think we have a very competitive bike for getting into the top-10 consistently.

"For the next races, we will need to work more in the free practices to start in a better condition for the race."

Team manager, Davide Brivio, added, "Andrea’s crash is a shame as he was having a fantastic race. He was consistently at the head of the race in a podium position, showing clear confidence with the pace. Unfortunately, he had this slide. It’s something that happens when you are fighting hard, but I think we are able to maintain the important awareness that we can be competitive and we can be there fighting. We have to work to make races like this more-and-more frequent.

"We are supremely happy for the absolutely great debut of Alex: He finished ninth only 14-seconds from the race winner. He kept a good pace and was very fast at the end of the race. He fought hard and I think he was able to learn a lot and proved to be a real racer. We are exceedingly proud of him and I believe this experience has been useful for him as well. He will take advantage of this in the future."