Keith Huewen: Bastianini, Dixon and the ‘unwritten rule’

Champion elect Francesco Bagnaia’s tense Sepang victory over future team-mate Enea Bastianini headlines this week’s MotoGP podcast featuring Keith Huewen.
Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini , MotoGP race, Malaysian MotoGP, 23 October
Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini , MotoGP race, Malaysian MotoGP, 23…

Bagnaia took over the race lead when Jorge Martin crashed on lap 7 of 20, but couldn’t shake off the Gresini machine of Bastianini, who overtook at mid-distance.

With title rival Fabio Quartararo simultaneously coming under pressure from Marco Bezzecchi for third, a Bagnaia win could also potentially seal Ducati’s first MotoGP crown since 2007.

Some tense discussions took place among Ducati management, who were kept on the edge of their seats – despite Bagnaia retaking the lead - when Bastianini remained locked to the GP22’s rear wheel, finishing just 0.270s behind.

Meanwhile, Quartararo kept Bezzecchi at bay, meaning the title goes down to the final round, albeit tilted massively in Bagnaia’s favour courtesy of a near unbeatable 23-point advantage.

But did Bastianini, who retained a slim title chance going into the Malaysian race, cross the line in pushing Bagnaia so hard?

“I genuinely felt that Bastianini had the pace to make the pass on Bagnaia, had it not been the guy that's going for a world championship,” said former Grand Prix rider and British champion Keith Huewen.

“There's that little phrase, an 'unwritten rule', that you don't interfere with a guy going for a world championship.

“Well, how many 'unwritten rules' have we seen broken over the years? Including Sepang 2015 with Marc and Valentino.

“Bastianini would have loved to have won that race. I think he just had that very clever, little bit of reticence, in making the pass.

“I think any other time, he'd have had a go at him on that last lap. I think he did the right thing and just rolled it enough to prove that he could be there if he wanted to be. Quite clever.” MotoGP editor Pete McLaren added: “It's not often you see Gigi Dall’Igna get out from the pit garage and walk to the pit wall.

“I think Ducati have done a good job of managing what is quite a difficult situation, but that showed the tension didn't? It showed that they weren't comfortable with, certainly that middle part of the race, Bastianini not only putting pressure but taking the lead.

“Because we’re told they are all free to fight for a win, and obviously Jorge Martin was riding for himself out front before his crash, I think Bastianini thought he could take the lead and pull away.

“He wasn't able to do that and then we saw Pecco came back past, but Bastianini stuck behind him didn't he? It was a bit like Misano again.

“But Ducati were probably not comfortable with how close he was to Pecco but I think ‘careful’ was the word that Bastianini used. Yes, he said he wanted to try and pass, but he was being careful.

“It seems after the race there were some words exchanged between Ducati management and Bastianini’s management.

“From Bastianini's point of view, he was still in mathematical title contention. He’s now one point off Aleix for third in the world championship and there are all the bonuses and everything that go with that. So that’s why he needs to keep pushing.

“It all worked out okay for Ducati in the end, but certainly there were some tense moments there.”

Keith Huewen: “Maybe they need the system that you have in Speedway. When you ride in a team in Speedway and you back up your team-mate with a second place, you get a ‘paid win’, the same as he does. But that kind of thing is not great for the fans.

“I'm not saying for a second that Bastianini let Bagnaia win it, but certainly I think the discretionary route that he took was just to be careful.

“I think that proves he's a team player when he really, really had to be, and a big sigh of relief at Ducati! The last thing you need is those two hating each other going into 2023 because that is just going to be fireworks and it's usually counterproductive.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini, MotoGP race, Malaysian MotoGP, 23 October
Francesco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini, MotoGP race, Malaysian MotoGP, 23…

“Next year’s going to be spicy with Enea as team-mate to Pecco?” said Podcast host Harry Benjamin.

“I think what they are doing at the minute is kind of jockeying for position for next year. Working out that team dynamic during the course of this year,” replied Keith Huewen.

“It’s worked out quite well for Ducati. They’ve got two very fast guys that are going to be on the factory bikes next year. No doubt about it.

“Bastianini deserves to be on that factory bike, but next year it becomes serious, when they're both on the red bikes as opposed to the opposing team bikes.

“Ducati are going to have to manage it really, really strictly, because otherwise you could have a situation where these two are going to be taking chunks out of each other and will be costing themselves championship positions.

“Bagnaia is going to go into next year, it now looks pretty much certain, as world champion, but that doesn't give him any priority over the other guy in in the red camp.

“So Bastianini, I think, is doing it all right. He's putting Bagnaia under pressure every possible time.”


The debate over how hard to fight against a title contender also cropped up when discussing the Jake Dixon and Augusto Fernandez battle in the Moto2 race.

“It's that unwritten rule again isn't it? But when you're contracted to a team to a sponsor, you’re paid to go out there and do the business,” said Huewen

“Jake Dixon is paid to do what he did to be on the podium. Who's going to pay his bonus if he's going to be a little bit earlier on the brakes, just to make sure that the guy that's racing for the championship is okay?

“I think Jake Dixon did everything right.

“Do you cheat the fans, the people at the side of the track? They've come in to see some good racing and there's nothing like a bit of rubbing to get spectators on their feet.

“Yeah, a couple of the moves were sketchy-close, but they weren't over-the-top close. They were proper racing moves and I think Jake’s got nothing to worry about on that front.

“And in today's environment of penalties, you know damn well that somebody would have awarded Jake a penalty if they thought he was over the top. And they didn’t.” MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen MotoGP podcast with Keith Huewen

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