The Ducati rider, who took a much-needed MotoGP victory in Assen following back-to-back DNF’s, made the perfect start before slowly building a gap. 

But when championship leader Fabio Quartararo made a desperate lunge at turn five, crashing into Espargaro and causing the Spaniard to lose over 11 seconds, the Aprilia rider showed unrelenting pace to finish fourth after being as low down as 15th.

Come the end of his stunning fightback, Espargaro crossed the finishing line with Bagnaia in view - only a 2.5 second gap separated the two riders.  

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After the race Espargaro said he missed out on a ‘clear’ victory, but Bagnaia disagreed: "I don’t know. I did my race and at the start I was managing well the distance compared to him. 

"For sure he demonstrated a great pace but he was needing too [in order] to recover. For sure, he was more angry to recover and his pace was quite impressive. 

"I did a different race and was trying to manage the gap from behind me. I wasn’t needing to always be on the limit like him. 

"I’ve learned that sometimes you need to be more calm on that situation. He was for sure, able to have a great fight with me but I don’t know because I won the race and he was fourth."

Bagnaia was ‘terrified’ to crash in Dutch MotoGP

Even with Quartararo and Espargaro out of contention, memories from crashing out at Sachsenring and Le Mans, two races where Bagnaia had a guaranteed podium in his hands, left the factory Ducati rider riding with a slight edge to his game.

"I was very terrified to crash again," said Bagnaia. "I just tried to be smart and try not to push over the limit. Finally, we were able to do a great race. 

"We worked well all weekend and we were prepared for this race. The only thing we weren’t expecting was the rain and I was scared [because of it]. 

"I tried to manage but Bezzecchi behind me was recovering two/three tenths by lap so it wasn’t easy to bounce back. 

"I was scared to crash because of the past. My objective was to finish the race. After two zeros like I did, it was very important to arrive at the finish line. 

"I was pushing a lot at the start to make a gap to Aleix [Espargaro] and Fabio [Quartararo] and when they made contact I said ‘okay, I can be more calm’ but [still] pushing. I tried different things. 

"But the problem was that Marco [Bezzecchi] was closing the gap. I tried to push again and I was seeing that my pace was enough to control it.2