Double 125cc world champion and veteran team boss Gresini passed away in February after a two-month battle with COVID-19.
MotoGP has carried several tributes to the late Italian since, including a moment of silence ahead of the Qatar Grand Prix, while Aprilia – whose factory entrant is run by Gresini Racing – carries its late team boss’ name on its RS-GPs.
Ahead of last Sunday’s race in Portugal, MotoGP joined together with the Formula 1 paddock in Gresini’s hometown of Imola for a minute of silence.
Espargaro finished just 8.8 seconds from the win in Portimao, with his sixth place finish only the sixth time Aprilia has recorded a top-six finish in MotoGP. The result also put him sixth in the championship.
Speaking after the race, Espargaro said the turn of speed Aprilia is showing with its new RS-GP in 2021 is making him “angry” that is happening without Gresini there to share in the celebrations.
“I’m proud about what we are doing, I believe he is watching,” Espargaro said of Gresini.
“But I feel very sorry because it’s my fifth season here and why does it have to be the season that I’m fast like this without him?
“It’s not fair, I’d really love to see his face after I arrive to the garage after a race like this.
“Fausto believed a lot in my potential. I think one of the team managers that believed more in my talent from a long time ago.
Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“So now I’m fighting at the top with his bike and his project but he’s not here, it makes me a little bit angry.
“But anyway, I’m sure what we did for him between MotoGP and Formula 1 is just one more example of how big Fausto was, how important Fausto was.”
Espargaro says he thought he’d be closer to the podium in Portugal, but a lack of grip in the hot temperatures compromised his performance.
Despite the setback, he is convinced “100%” that Aprilia will be on the podium in 2021.
“I think step by step, the season is very long,” he added.
“We’re P6 in the championship, I fight in the podium group in the three races more or less and this gives me a lot of confidence.
“Step by step I will be able to improve my confidence and fight for the podium.
“Sincerely after the warm-up I was quite sure I was able to fight for it, but I had no grip due to the track temperature and I spin a lot.
“Anyway, I’m happy overall with my performance. To go top six in MotoGP with Aprilia is something important, but I think Jerez we can be even closer.
“So, step by step this year we will be on the podium, 100%, we will not wait till next year.”