Despite losing to Di Giannantonio, Francesco Bagnaia has one hand on the world title – but he warns of the pressure at the season finale in Valencia
After the Qatar Grand Prix, Francesco Bagnaia has the best chance of successfully defending his MotoGP World Championship title. The Ducati factory rider leaves the penultimate stop on the calendar with a 21-point lead over Jorge Martin. A maximum of 37 points will still be awarded at the finale in Valencia
On the Lusail International Circuit, the situation turned completely on two days. After the sprint on Saturday, Bagnaia blamed a “bad” rear tire for his problems. On Sunday it hit Martin.
“Maybe the same thing happened to him as happened to me yesterday,” said Bagnaia. “Unfortunately, we have to deal with situations like this. You can’t manage it. You prepare the weekend perfectly. Then the race starts and it feels different. That has to get better.”
“The problems are getting bigger because we are getting faster and faster. A small thing with the tires can have a big impact. Yesterday I was lucky that the race only lasted eleven laps.”
For Bagnaia, the difference between sprint and Grand Prix was like night and day. On Sunday, he took the lead at the start and pulled away at the front. Only Fabio Di Giannantonio was able to keep up and eventually beat his Italian compatriot.
“I did my best. My goal was to win, but I didn’t want to take too many risks, because it was very important today to get some points,” said Bagnaia, describing the duel from his point of view. “I had fantastic pace. That allowed me to ride away at the front.”
“So it was clear that I would definitely be second. That was very important because Jorge had problems at the start. ‘Diggia’ was always behind me. I tried, but it wasn’t enough.” On lap 19, Di Giannantonio attacked and overtook Bagnaia.
Then it was onto the long home straight. Bagnaia wanted to counterattack, but that went completely wrong. “I lost because of a mistake I’ve made in the past. In 2021, I made the same mistake here with Zarco. I usually learn from my mistakes.”
“I was sucked in by his slipstream. Unfortunately, that can happen these days. I didn’t expect the effect to be so strong. I was shocked at that moment,” admits Bagnaia and emphasizes: “I thought we would collide and it would be a disaster. “
“But I was then able to let the bike slide, which allowed me to brake harder. That was the only option.” He swerved to the outside and used the asphalt run-off zone. As the gap was large enough, Bagnaia continued in second place.
“After that I was pretty scared and finished slowly. ‘Diggia’ was fantastic all weekend,” he praised the premiere winner. “He was faster today. But I still rode a great race.”
Bagnaia is not “100 percent happy” because he fought for victory but was defeated. Nevertheless, the points lead over Martin is now a “big relief”. “Overall, I’m very satisfied,” is his Qatar summary
World Championship duel: More leeway for Bagnaia
Did he know how far back Martin was in the race? “No, my team didn’t tell me anything. I thought he would be fourth. I didn’t know he was that far back. It’s fantastic. I’m traveling to Valencia relieved.”
Everything is in place for Bagnaia’s second world title in the premier class. But he remembers last year, when his lead over Fabio Quartararo was even bigger and it was still a tense weekend.
“Yes, I can remember how I felt last year,” says the Ducati rider. “Back then, I had a 23-point lead. I felt the pressure back then. This year is different. I think I will manage the situation more easily. “
“Jorge will have to attack completely. I also have to push, but I will have more leeway. That’s why I’m in the best situation. When you start thinking about how to manage it, it’s not ideal when you have pressure.”
“I have to stay focused and follow the same routine as on a normal weekend. The thing I’m most worried about is the weather, because on November 26 you never know what can happen. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.”
Is it the most difficult World Championship duel against Martin for Bagnaia in his career so far? “Yes, it is the most difficult World Championship. Also because I’ve made a lot of mistakes this year. I could have had a lot more points.”
“When you’re fighting against a rider who is so fast and explosive, it’s not easy. He rides the same bike and can look at all the data. Compared to last year, it’s much more difficult. I think we are managing the situation well because I am always strong on Sunday. For next year, I need to improve the feeling on Saturday. “