The Gresini Ducati star certainly expects to fight for it, having returned to the top of the standings by becoming the first repeat winner of an unpredictable 2022 season in Austin on Sunday.

"It's only the first four races, the championship is long, but we have very good potential. The team works well and I think we can battle for the championship," Bastianini said.

Bastianini rode a tactical race, saving his strength and tyres behind GP22 riders Jack Miller and Jorge Martin before being prompted to go on the offensive by Alex Rins.

"It was a really hard battle, the first part of the race was critical not to spend too much energy," said Bastianini. "Starting from the second row made things easier, but when Alex tried to overtake me many times I thought, 'okay, now it's time to push'. "I overtook Jorge and later Jack, and I won. Fantastic."

Bastianini had put his GP21 into the lead with four laps to go, then eased away to win by 2.0s from Rins, with Miller completing the rostrum in third.

The young Italian now returns to Europe with a five-point lead over Suzuki's Rins in the riders' championship, having won the first (Qatar) and now last of the opening flyaway rounds.

"Both wins are important for me because it’s 25 points," said Bastianini. "The first one is the most special because I dedicated it to Fausto and it was also the first race for the team [with Ducati].

"This one is better for me as a rider because we know now we are constant and every race we can be at the front. Only Argentina, but that was a really strange weekend for us."

Indeed, although Bastianini's results show 1st-11th-10th-1st during the opening races, he had also been looking very strong at Mandalika (qualifying fifth on the grid) until the pre-race downpour.

"We can be quick on every track, even though I’m living this season like a rookie, as I see that we still have something to learn from the others," he added.

Miller is now the next best Ducati rider in the world championship, in seventh place and 30-points from Bastianini.