After winning his maiden MotoGP world championship, Ducati’s Bagnaia is under no illusion that he has a target placed firmly on his back heading into the new season.

Winner of the most races in 2022 (7), joint leader with Jorge Martin when it came to most pole positions (5) and the first rider to win four consecutive races since Marc Marquez in 2019, last season was a truly special one for Bagnaia.

However, his number of challengers is expected to increase in 2023 as new team-mate Enea Bastianini, Fabio Quartararo, Aleix Espargaro, Marquez and even the KTM of Brad Binder could be serious contenders.

That’s not to mention various other Ducati riders who are expected to pose a strong challenge to the Italian. Yet, Bagnaia knows he’s the man to beat even more than Ducati themselves.

Speaking to La Stampa, Bagnaia said: "Bagnaia is the man to beat. There are a lot of Ducatis on the track but I’ve been ahead of everyone for two years. When you’re the man to beat the pressure can do terrible things. 

"I don’t want to rush it, but I do want to enjoy what I did because I still haven’t finished. 

"Surely, the strategy for this next year will be to win, hoping to have an easier start and a more linear season."

A key storyline to follow in 2023 and one that could provide fireworks is the relationship between Bagnaia and Bastianini.

Not known to be the closest of friends, both riders could be title contenders which would be the first time that teammates have been fighting for the championship since Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in 2015. 

But Bagnaia is keen for things not to get out of hand: "We’ve known each other for a long time and we know that waging war in the garage would lead to nothing,” continued Bagnaia. “Everyone will think of themselves in the race and this season the best battles were with Enea. 

"But there are also other fast Italians. Bezzecchi, Marini and Morbidelli could win. 

"It reminds me of the time of Rossi, Biaggi, Capirossi and Melandri. The five of us grew up together and it would be nice to battle it out against each other."