FIM Awards ceremony recognises all of the 2018 World Champions in Andorra
Ángel Nieto Team rider Raúl Fernández this weekend collected his gold medal as the FIM Junior Moto3 World Champion at a ceremony organised by the Federation Internationale de Motociclisme (FIM) in Andorra. Fernández, who is the first Spanish rider to win the coveted title after three years of Italian dominance, moves up to Grand Prix level on a full-time basis in 2019, as he contests the Moto3 World Championship with the Ángel Nieto Team.
What is your objective for 2019?
I am going to keep my feet on the ground. My mentality is to try and run at the front, with the strongest riders in the class. The top four from 2018 have all moved up a class but there are still a lot of good riders in there. I see it like football, the most a team gets close to the opposition goal and the more they attack, the better chance they have of scoring. That will be my approach and I won’t stop working until the results come.
Luckily, I have a great team behind me and my family, who have been there with me through some difficult moments and also the happy times. Last year, for example, I would have loved to step up to the World Championship but I was immature and they made me see that the best way to improve was to stay in the Junior World Championship and keep working. I went from finishing 28th in 2017 to winning the title in 2018. The funniest thing is that at the end of last season, on my mother’s birthday in December, my father bet me a car that I wouldn’t win the title. I didn’t have anything to lose so I accepted the bet.
It is hard to imagine that in such a successful season there have been difficult moments…
Well there are three key moments when I struggled. The first one was the Thursday in Portugal – we arrived at the first race of the season after a year when I crashed a lot, and in one of the very first sessions of the season I crashed. I couldn’t understand what had happened and I had to take a deep breath because some fears came back from the past. I felt down because I got passed by another rider and couldn’t stay with him. All I wanted was to finish on the podium, after such a difficult year, and I got carried away.
The second one, which was possibly the worst, was at Barcelona in June. After two podiums and a win from the first four races, we got lost there and couldn’t work it out, the lap times weren’t coming and I wasn’t enjoying it. I had my mind on the World Championship too, because I had a wildcard there the following week, and I didn’t know how to fix it.
The third one was at Jerez, at the end of September, although this one wasn’t as bad. As Nico Terol always says to me, you have to give 100% with whatever you have and that was the moment I did it. I managed to get onto the group even though I didn’t start from high up the grid and I stayed calm, knowing something always happens in the last corner. I always like to look back on the race from the previous season and there is always something going on in the last corner at Jerez. I could have been fighting at the front but I resisted and three riders crashed out. You could call that the luck of a champion but I saw it coming and I waited. We finished on the podium and picked up the points, which is how you win a championship.
Since I hadn’t been running at the front in 2017, there were times in 2018 when I didn’t feel confident I could do it. It wasn’t until we went to Aragón for the Grand Prix in September that I truly believed I could do it, that I could ride alone and set a good lap time. I thought to myself, ‘you are consistent, maybe not fast enough for pole but you have the rhythm to fight in the race.’ That was a step forward, psychologically.
For all the bad moments, there had to be plenty of good ones too...
On this side I would pick out the victories. The first of the season, at Valencia, and then Aragón and Albacete. A podium can be a coincidence, but Valencia was a win when I judged the race. It came off a race when I finished fourth and could have been second, because I had to run wide to avoid somebody. I knew it was windy and there were three of us fighting for the win. The other two crashed and I put together a constant pace that allowed me to escape.
In 2017 I couldn’t even fight in the group because I was losing touch with the other riders under acceleration, but this year at Aragón I was in the group and knew the race was mine. And then at Albacete I knew I could win from the start, I was the fastest on track. I broke the lap record on Friday and did it again on Saturday in qualifying. That got me in a negative mindset again, thinking “Let’s see if you can do it,” – just like last year. The team calmed me down and I was able to lap in the 1’34s. I told them I could break 1’34 and they asked me to use my head, but I set a 1’33.9. Then on Sunday, in the race before Moto3, I was watching my brother and saw how fast some of the guys were going, touching their elbow even in the wet. I decided to push from the first lap because I could see how high the limit was. I guessed the other riders would struggle to go with me and I took my chance to escape, win, and take a big step towards the title.