Bastianini: Favourites? ’Marc is Marc’, Bagnaia: ‘It’s like a school register!’

The MotoGP World Championship has produced four different title winners - Marc Marquez, Joan Mir, Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia - on four different brands of bike, in the past four seasons.
Enea Bastianini
Enea Bastianini

Throw in the wide variety of recent race winners, nine in 2020, eight in 2021, seven in 2022, and picking a favourite for the upcoming campaign isn’t an easy task.

Then there are the added unknowns of the new Saturday Sprint races and rejigged weekend schedule.

One name firmly on the radar of new factory Ducati signing Enea Bastianini and reigning champion Bagnaia is Marc Marquez, whose towering record and improving fitness outweighs Honda’s winless 2022 campaign.

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“Well for me, Marc is Marc,” said Bastianini, third in the last year’s championship for the satellite Gresini team.

“He’s won eight titles and will be at 100%, because I think in the last part of last season he improved [physically]. He was fast and I think it will be so difficult to battle with him.

“But I think we have the potential to battle. The Ducati is a very fast bike and the factory team has a really good potential.

“But it’s not only Marc. It’s Pecco, it’s Fabio Quartararo, it’s Martin, it’s Mir. We have a lot of names. Let's see during the season because also the [weekend] format is different and it’s important to arrive prepared on the Saturday and change the approach a little bit.”

Bagnaia, Ducati’s first MotoGP champion since Casey Stoner in 2007, joked that the list of title contenders is so long it would be like listening to a school register.

“It’s like when you are at school and before starting a lesson the teacher says, ‘Bagnaia?’ ‘I'm here’. ‘Marquez?’ ‘I’m here’... Because everyone has a possibility to fight for the win and for the title.”

Marc Marquez, Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Italian MotoGP 29 May
Marc Marquez, Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Italian MotoGP 29 May

'Marc will be at 100%'

In the case of Marquez, Bagnaia agrees that the Spaniard’s physical condition no longer appears to be the limiting factor following bone realignment surgery to his right arm.

Instead, the question mark is whether the reshuffle of Honda’s technical department can transform the struggling RC213V into a title-winning machine once again.

“I think Marc will be at 100% because already last year he was [physically] OK. And if Honda will be competitive, he will be at the front. If not, it will be more difficult because in the current era in MotoGP everything is very important," Bagnaia said.

“All the bikes are competitive for winning races, so the level is very high so a lot of riders; Quartararo, Enea, Marquez… I think Morbidelli will be okay. Oliveira with Aprilia will be so competitive. I think Binder will be competitive.

“I’m for sure forgetting someone but it will be very tough, very difficult, but our objective is to be better and try to defend what we did last year. I will try to do it with all my capacity.”

The good news for Bagnaia is that, having won the title despite five non-scores and a single point in Mandalika, the potential for improvement is clear.

“Don’t crash!” he smiled, when asked about the most valuable lesson of last season. “I lost a lot of points because I crashed in five races, once from Nakagami [Barcelona].

“It's also true that in Indonesia I finished 15th, so just one point. But in any case, the biggest lesson is to remain calm, think race by race and don't commit the mistakes of being nervous.”

Francesco Bagnaia
Francesco Bagnaia

'I have to not make the mistake of thinking I'm a champion'

Bagnaia is also keen to avoid any sense of complacency.

“I have to not make the mistake of thinking I'm already a champion, because it's something that can relax you,” explained the Italian. “So I will try to have the same approach, same mindset of last year and of all the years in my life.

“I think I’ve learned the lessons from last year from the mistakes, and I think I can start this season in a better way. The new bike is very close to the 2022 bike, so I think we can start well from the first day of testing, but we have to go there and understand.

“The weekend schedule is different so this is also something that can change things, but I'm quite confident and sure that if we work well, we can be in the top like last year.”

Bagnaia will take the #1 on track for the first time during the official Sepang test from February 10-12.

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