Pecco Bagnaia Set Point Ready for Valencia after Winning in Malaysia as Enea Bastianini & Fabio Quartararo Finish on the Podium
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Pecco Bagnaia Set Point Ready for Valencia after Winning in Malaysia as Enea Bastianini & Fabio Quartararo Finish on the Podium

By FORMULAMotoGPMag - 25 October 2022

Author: Myanna Wedes

The 2022 Malaysian MotoGP race held at the Sepang International Circuit was exhilarating, hot, humid, wet and of course not shy of controversy with team orders coming up as a topic starter across journalists, media, fans and teams. The practice sessions featured mixed conditions with rain causing havoc, tyre performance being assessed at every opportunity and a lot of pressure with increased tension over the World Championship battle ongoing between Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo. Unfortunately, Aprilia fans will be upset and disappointed as Aleix Espargaro is no longer within the hunt for the title after some seriously poor luck with his machine being unreliable. Over the three days at Sepang, A Espargaro had to deal with clutch issues and his hole shot device not operating properly. In addition to this, he was watching on as his two main rivals had their bikes working well and at times questioning how things managed to go so pear shaped with Aprilia’s bike performance. The captain and their leader, A Espargaro, has been left feeling shattered that it is over. With that said, he can still finish third so a strong result in Valencia is a must. Some will say that it was a long shot for the Aprilia team to win the World Championship. However, we must remember that they were equal in performance if not better at certain rounds in the 2022 season. During the second half of the season both Aprilia and Yamaha have suffered bad luck, made poor choices and had crew make mistakes whilst Ducati have excelled forwards. The fastest man on track during the second half of the race was Quartararo and he put up a wonderful fight to finish third after fracturing the middle finger on his left hand after crashing on Saturday during FP4. The French rider gave it his all after being declared fit to ride and will do the same in Valencia. Now that the title is going down to the last race to be decided, it is time to review the race events of Sepang.

Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Enea, Pecco & Fabio)
  • With the pressure of the title mounting, Bagnaia crashed over the weekend in Malaysia and some thought this was a glimpse into the future for what could take place between now and the season finale. However, Bagnaia found a way to make things work over the weekend even with a few mishaps. He was fast, calculated and managed to win the race even though the race winner could have been Bastianini. There are comments that “The Beast” had the pace to win and rather adhered to team orders and slowed/moved around to assist Bagnaia. There is every chance that this could be what happened. However, we will never know. What is done is done. It was not an easy debrief for Bastianini who was asked about the race, his pace and why he did not secure the victory. Trying and actually going for it are two different things. No doubts in our mind, Ducati will do whatever it takes to win their first title since 2007. Overall at present it is match point Pecco and he will be the hot favourite for Valencia considering how hard it will be for Quartararo to win just based on the points difference. The gap is 23 points. Plus, for those who follow Pecco on Instagram, his photo of himself eating a hot dog had the caption after winning the race as follows: “team order? I only asked for a hot dog Congratulations @ducaticorse, we are the best team in the world #GoFree.” This speaks loudly to those who asked about the team orders.
Credit - Ducati Corse Press (Bagnaia)

Pecco Bagnaia #63:

"I think today's start was probably one of the best of my career. After moving up to second, I tried to manage the race as best I could. In the beginning, Jorge Martin was pushing really hard, but I felt that the rear tyre did not allow me to keep the same pace as him. I stayed calm and waited. The most difficult moment was when Enea Bastianini passed me. When I saw that I was faster, I got back in front and did everything I could to get the win. Today was important since Quartararo was third. There are only two points left to win the title, and in Valencia, we have a really good chance since Fabio will have to win the race, while I can afford even only 14th place, I want to approach the race as if it were a normal race weekend and do my best as always."

Credit - Ducati Corse Press (Bagnaia & Enea)
  • Bastianini will be Bagnaia’s teammate in 2023, so does a contract with Ducati hold weight to then make a rider decide not to attack out of fear of the future, repercussions and being treated differently later on down the line. You can only imagine what would have been running through Bastianini’s mind as he approached every turn and monitored the laps counting down. Managing the two riders next year is not going to be easy, although we know Ducati have a way of ensuring the workload and roles are adhered too especially with a top performing bike across multiple teams. According to Bastianini, he overtook Bagnaia and then within two to three laps, something changed. There was also a pit board message which is adding to the further controversy after we observed the Ducati team management going in and out of their boxes, heart rates increasing and head team personnel making decisions as the battle unfolded lap after lap. They will say they want their riders to race without team orders…. However, why did we see Bagnaia overtake and win without a last lap, last corner final duel? Fans were not treated to the battle for the victory to the line scenario this time around. Sometimes this is how the story plays out.
Credit - Gresini MotoGP Team (Bastianini)

Enea Bastianini #23:

“I’m happy, because 20 points are important to continue the chase to Espargaró, but at the same time I’m a little disappointed because when I was at the front, something changed and the feeling with the bike wasn’t the same. We’ll analyse the data to understand what happened… The important thing is that we showed once again to be among the top players in this category. We’ll try to wrap things up the best way at Valencia.”

Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Fabio)
  • The odds in Malaysia were not in his favour and Quartararo pushed like mad to secure a third place finish. During FP4, Quartararo came off his bike, his hand taking the force hitting the track and actually ending up fractured. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider pushed through the pain barrier to finish the Sepang race which we know is taxing on the mind and body. The way he raced was like the old Quartararo and not someone who was caught up in a title fight. Instead, he was racing on the limit and towards the end of the race was catching the leading Ducati riders. He fought off Marco Bezzecchi which was a relief as any further back could have been a different storyline. The goal now for Quartararo is to have fun, ride with belief and see what happens in Valencia. He has a quality team working with him and knows that Yamaha has their fingers crossed because from past history, Valencia has made and broken many World Championships. Next year, there will only be two Yamaha bikes on the grid so it will be very crucial that Quartararo continues the momentum for the remaining race, pre-season testing and staying on target to be stronger for 2023 because Ducati are red hot and Marc Marquez is back in town!
Credit - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team (Fabio)

Fabio Quartararo #20:

“I feel so good. It was a long time that I didn’t get on the podium. I gave my maximum today. I couldn’t have done better than this. I’m proud of myself because our main rival had a good day, but we also had a good day in the end. I know exactly where I was losing time today. As for my riding, this was one of my best rides of the season, especially the first laps. I’m feeling super happy. At least we bring the title fight to Valencia. Even if our chances are super slim, we did everything we could to end the championship fight in Valencia.”

  • One of the rides of the day was watching Australian rider Jack Miller make numerous overtakes and secure a sixth place finish after a treacherous lead up to the lights out. During qualifying, Miller had a nasty high side which occurred from rider error, combined pressure and also changing conditions. The Australian was able to focus on his own race on Sunday and not be the bait for title team orders. In fact, Miller went from twenty-first to the top six and this showcases how good he is even when not riding at 100% fitness. We look forward to saying goodbye to Miller in Valencia as he wraps up his Ducati career and begins a new chapter and story at KTM.
Credit - Ducati Corse Press (Miller)

Jack Miller #43:

"Racing in Malaysia is always difficult, and today it was even more challenging starting so far back. After the start, I found myself sandwiched in the first corner, finishing 21st. I kept calm and made several overtakes, trying not to make any mistakes. I managed to get behind Marc Marquez on the last lap and even tried to pass him at Turn 4. I am satisfied with my performance today, also considering the condition of my leg after the Phillip Island crash and yesterday's crash in Q1. Also, it was a great day for the team: we won the team title for the second year in a row, and I am proud to be part of this success."

Credit - CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team
  • It was a superhuman effort by Marc Marquez to race at Sepang full race distance even with the bike performance lacking in the area of turning. You could see if you watched closely how hard Marquez was braking in order to stop the bike and then turn it in and out of corners. The level of the Honda is improving and these positive points are going to make the different in how they approach the end of the season and testing at Valencia for the 2023 season where everything resets and all is to play for once again. The intensity of the Sepang circuit can work your body to the maximum and Joan Mir felt that as well with arm pump issues taking control even after his foot recovery which is still lacking overall strength to race at full pace without any pain or pressure. The final goodbye also arrives for Team Suzuki Ecstar and then a new set of leathers, colours and crew at Repsol Honda for Mir. The rider changes are exciting and we anticipate some new rivalries to be born as various manufactures welcome their new rider line ups. If Marquez can win the race, he will go for it because he is not directly involved in the title battle. If you want to be the best you have to show it by passing those ahead of you or willing to challenge you!
Credit - CormacGP & Repsol Honda MotoGP Team (Marquez)

Marc Marquez #93:

“As I said yesterday, what we did in Qualifying was above and beyond and this is more or less what I was expecting from our race. We gave our 100% all race to achieve the best possible result, we started really well but I saw I didn’t have the speed to stay with the leaders. I tried to find my place and avoid taking any unneeded risks and get some good information from the race. I did everything that Honda asked me so I am optimistic they will use this information to improve in the future. Now we can start to prepare for Valencia after a difficult weekend, because here we could see the level of our bike. I think we can be closer in Valencia.”

Credit - Team Suzuki Ecstar

Joan Mir #36:

“It’s been a disappointing race for me, especially after a good performance on the early laps. I started to suffer with arm pump, which is something I haven’t really experienced before. I had a little bit of it last time we raced here, but nothing very bad, whereas this year I could barely use the lever. I’m extremely disappointed, for myself but also for the team, because we’ve been trying hard and we wanted and needed a good result. I thought I would get a Top 5, which would’ve been a boost, but it wasn’t to be and luck wasn’t on my side again. I’ll consult with the doctors to see if I need surgery in the winter, because it’s horrible.”

With the grand finale around the corner…. are you Team Pecco or Team Fabio?

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