Why the sprint was the key to victory for Bagnaia

MotoGP champion Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) has taken the lead in the riders’ championship with victory at the Qatar Grand Prix. After a somewhat disappointing sprint on Saturday, Bagnaia lived up to his role as favorite on Sunday and drove towards a controlled victory.

Compared to the sprint race, Bagnaia changed his approach and received an improved set-up for his GP24 from his Ducati engineers. These two factors were the key to success.

“Yesterday I had a hard time achieving the lap times from the test,” admits Bagnaia. “During the test it worked better because the grip was more consistent. But that was no longer the case this weekend and I felt chattering. I tried to drive more smoothly.”

“I changed my driving style and that helped with the vibrations. I only felt vibrations in one corner in the final two laps. It worked well,” says Bagnaia happily and is already looking ahead to the next Grand Prix: “Maybe we’ll have this problem in the the upcoming races in Portimao. The liability there is completely different.”

Aggressive start: Francesco Bagnaia’s plan works

Bagnaia got off to a very good start from the second row of the grid. “It was important to change the strategy for the first lap. I wanted to drive more aggressively,” reports the Italian, who showed some decisive maneuvers in the first lap.

“It was important to take the lead right at the start of the race. It was clear to me that we were fast enough to open up a gap,” said Bagnaia confidently. The plan worked. Bagnaia led the race for several laps and pulled away slightly. From then on he controlled his pace and managed a lead of around a second over Brad Binder (KTM).

The weaknesses of the sprint are eliminated overnight

“Yesterday’s race helped me to better exploit the potential of the new bike,” reveals Bagnaia. “I was also fast on Saturday, but it was difficult for me to use the tires evenly. I wanted to do the exact opposite today and it worked.”

Overnight, Ducati engineers worked out a better set-up for Bagnaia’s Desmosedici. “Last night we were working out which way we should take the set-up to improve the motorcycle. We tried a change in the warm-up that worked well. I’m really happy,” said the defending champion happily.

As Bagnaia controlled the race for laps, he made almost no mistakes. Brad Binder was amazed after the race and praised Bagnaia: “I got close to ‘Pecco’, but he did an incredible job. He didn’t make a single mistake the entire race. Hats off to his performance!”

But Bagnaia’s race didn’t go completely perfectly. “I made a small mistake when I braked too deep into Turn 6,” admits the winner. “I got off the line slightly. But the rest was perfect,” said Bagnaia.

Since the motorcycle would have enabled significantly more, Bagnaia didn’t find it difficult to complete his laps like clockwork: “The potential would have allowed for faster lap times. The motorcycle was capable of 1:52.1 or 1:52.2 laps “But that wouldn’t have made sense because a fast lap can affect everything,” he points out tire management, which is very important in Qatar.

“I tried to react when Brad got closer. At the entrance to the corner I controlled the rear tire pretty well. That made it easier to manage the lead. It went perfectly according to plan,” says the Ducati factory rider happily.

How important is victory to the champion’s self-confidence?

After the defeat in the sprint, Bagnaia made an impressive comeback in the main race. How important was the win for your self-confidence? “The victory is of course very important for the World Cup standings. But on the other hand, it wasn’t fundamentally important because we still have 40 races ahead of us. The championship is still very long,” he puts it into perspective.

For Bagnaia there were a few points in Qatar that were significantly more important than the maximum result. “The most important thing was that we were able to better understand how the new motorcycle works with used tires. In Malaysia and here too we found a lot of grip,” he alludes to the winter tests, which took place in perfect conditions and are therefore not very meaningful were.

The victory in Qatar showed that the title will probably go to Bagnaia again this year. “It is always important to win races and not make any mistakes. But the season is still very long,” warns Bagnaia.

“I don’t want to look at who is the leader and who is the pursuer. I want to enjoy everything and keep improving. That’s the best way. There are still 40 races left. So the season is still really long,” is the two-time MotoGP champion is aware of.