Bagnaia: “Valentino Rossi’s presence made the difference with my opponents”

Valentino Rossi’s crucial role as a mentor for Francesco Bagnaia became a hurdle that his MotoGP title rivals could not overcome, the champion claims.
Valentino Rossi, Dutch MotoGP race, 27 June
Valentino Rossi, Dutch MotoGP race, 27 June

Bagnaia won his maiden premier class championship last year, overcoming a 91-point advantage held by defending champion Fabio Quartararo to pip him on the final day.

Bagnaia is the first Italian MotoGP champion since Rossi in 2009, and the first on a Ducati since Casey Stoner in 2007.

Remote video URL

The VR46 graduate told GQ: "The constant presence of Valentino, for me, has been very important. And it still is. 

“In fact, I think I can say that he made the difference with my opponents. 

“Vale is a master who over time has become a friend, but above all he has been an example to follow. 

“Having lived a life as a rider, he can tell you exactly what to do and how to improve in all aspects concerning our work. 

“Even today if I need I can turn to him, and he responds by fishing something from his infinite experience. I always try to make the most of this opportunity."

With Bagnaia on top of the world, and Ducati returning to the sport’s peak at last, 2023 could be the year that they establish themselves.

Enea Bastianini has joined their factory team and will also vie for the championship.

Bagnaia: “Valentino Rossi’s presence made the difference with my opponents”

"In motorcycling you go a lot in waves", Bagnaia said. "It is a sport made up of great cycles: after the very strong Italians who imposed themselves at the end of the 90s and at the beginning of the 2000s, the Spaniards arrived. 

“But now we Italians are coming back, there are many of us again to go fast: myself, Bastianini, Franco Morbidelli, Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio di Giannantonio, all of us have grown together and we are really strong. 

“Also because the competitiveness between us has always been high, and this has led us to improve each other.

"We will do and will do well, there are also other young people who are coming up and can reach very high levels. Of course, there is a fair amount of competition to overcome. 

“The Spaniards, for example, continue to have the youth championship of reference, the most competitive and important in the world, and this makes their life a little easier. But the point is that the world has changed and will continue to change, and we must know how to deal with it."

What made Rossi a superstar that transcended MotoGP was not just his seven championships and his longevity, but also his magnetic personality.

“Being yourself is the hardest thing,” Bagnaia said. “Maybe because we live in an environment where people are always looking for the character, and I personally think that's pretty stupid. 

“Very often I hear: ‘That's a great driver, but in the end he will never be a character’. 

Bagnaia: “Valentino Rossi’s presence made the difference with my opponents”

“Here, certain words seem to me out of this world, out of time: I, for example, am made in a certain way, I can seem closed if you look at me from a certain point of view, and maybe I really am. 

“This, however, cannot prevent me from using social media as I think is right. To share on Instagram what I want about my private life."

Bagnaia reflected on last season’s success: "Winning as an Italian and with an Italian bike was a beautiful thing, it had not happened for 50 years. 

“Then it happened with Ducati, and for me it was like realising a dream that I had always carried with me.

"I always think of the fact that the last world title of an Italian rider in MotoGP dates back to 2009. Being the first to do it after Valentino Rossi makes me really happy. The way we achieved this success was unforgettable."

It was a tumultuous year. Bagnaia crashed five times. There was the drink driving incident last summer. His championship was far from guaranteed.

He said: "Before Assen, we had a meeting, we all sat there to analyse the problems we had. It was a necessary, decisive switch. It was the thing we needed. 

“Starting from Holland, I can say with absolute certainty, everything was perfect. And so we made an incredible comeback, we made the difference compared to everyone else. 

“For me, having lived such a season is a source of immense, inexhaustible pride: it had never happened that a MotoGP rider recovered all these points and won the world title. Maybe it has never happened even in the whole history of sport in the absolute sense."

Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Valencia MotoGP, 6 November
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP race, Valencia MotoGP, 6 November

This is what Bagnaia believes will drive him to another title: "My strengths can be seen under braking, in the fact that I can turn the bike very tight despite being very fast. 

“In the last two years this feature has made the difference for me, especially compared to my [rivals]. And then I think I have a great determination, I always have the iron will to be able to get to the end of each race. It's something I've matured over the years.

"Speed is something that belongs to me. It has always been inside me. Practising it and knowing how to manage it comes naturally to me, I have never had to struggle to go fast.

"I had to work a lot on my head, I consider it my fault. Because I'm self-critical, I'm never really happy with what I do, how I make the bike go on the track, but at the same time I've always struggled to receive criticism in the right way. 

“When others tell me what's wrong, I try to listen to them, but I don't always succeed. I have to learn to see certain words as advice, suggestions, which is what I am. 

“But I'm still young, I still have plenty of time to learn and wonderful guides I can refer to."

Read More