Bagnaia ‘accepted’ Marquez following him, Espargaro 'not as competitive'

Francesco Bagnaia admits he was resigned to Marc Marquez benefiting from a slipstream behind him during qualifying at the Australian MotoGP.
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati MotoGP Phillip Island
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati MotoGP Phillip Island

Bagnaia, who twice had Marquez for company during MotoGP Q2 at Phillip Island, was able to shake off the Spaniard on the first run as the Honda rider nearly crashed at turn ten.

However, on the final time attack run Bagnaia was not so lucky as Marquez positioned himself perfectly in order to benefit from a slipstream coming over the start-finish line and with it pip the Ducati rider to second on the grid. 

Knowing he had to find time on his last effort, Bagnaia put his head down after trying to get the riders behind to pass him on the out-lap. 

But when that strategy failed, Bagnaia knew it could cost him: "Today the objective was to be in the front row. It’s always very important. I was seeing that in the first exit and especially the second one that a lot of riders were behind me. 

"I tried to stop a bit in the out-lap but if they don’t go in front of me then I will push because I knew my lap time was not good enough to remain in the front row. 

"I pushed and I was knowing that with a reference in this track you can drop a tenth, so I was already accepting it and I just tried to push."

Bagnaia claims Espargaro doesn’t have the pace of the top four

Despite his two title rivals being directly behind him on the grid, Bagnaia has put himself in a perfect position to fight for the win and take over the championship lead for the first time in his career.

Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP, Australian MotoGP, 15 October
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP, Australian MotoGP, 15 October

Finishing anywhere from first to fourth will achieve that for Bagnaia if Fabio Quartararo is one place behind him, otherwise Bagnaia would need to finish two or more places ahead of the Yamaha rider.

Like Aleix Espargaro and Quartararo, Bagnaia showed strong race pace in FP4 which will likely lead to a head-to-head battle between the trio in Sunday’s race, while polesitter Jorge Martin and Marquez can’t be ruled out. 

But Bagnaia is not so sure that Espargaro has the pace to contend for the victory, instead calling Marquez, Quartararo and Martin his main challengers.

Bagnaia added: "I think that in this track you have to be very smart. The rear tyre will not be so hot and you have to manage the consumption. 

"In the first laps it will be very tough to be competitive and to not lose performance. Many riders, also from the rear [of the field] will push and the rear tyre will drop a lot. 

"It will be important to be intelligent in the first few laps. I think that Marc, Jorge, Fabio can be very competitive. I think, in this moment, Aleix is not as competitive as the riders I said."

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