Bastianini sensationally won last year’s Qatar season-opener on a year-old Ducati at Gresini. It was the first of four wins that carried him to third place in the world championship.

While Bastianini is now settling into his new factory Ducati ride alongside title winner Francesco Bagnaia, Bezzecchi and VR46 team-mate Luca Marini have picked up the satellite baton.

Marini has been fastest in both winter tests so far, but also named Bezzecchi as among the top five for pace at last month’s Sepang test.

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The problem for the VR46 riders is that the latest Desmosedici GP23 Ducati looks much more competitive out-of-the-box compared to last year’s GP22. Both Bezzecchi and Marini are now riding the more refined end-of-2022 version.

“The situation is similar but not the same,” Bezzecchi said of comparisons with Bastianini a year ago. “Last year, when Ducati created the new bike there were more problems compared to this year. This year the new bike looks already very competitive.

“Of course, our bike [GP22] is fantastic, I really like it. I’ll try to fight for race victories. That’s my only target – win my first race. From there we’ll see.”

The 24-year-old, a three-time race winner in each of the Moto3 and Moto2 classes, was equally clear about his desire to snare a seat at a factory team ASAP.

“In terms of my career target, it is to go into a factory team,” he said. “At the end, you have more pressure, more expectations from the outside, but it’s the target every rider has.

“You’re the face of the brand. For Ducati, Pecco and Enea are the riders that the Ducati fans love the most.”

The problem for the likes of Bezzecchi and Marini is that nine of the ten factory team seats are settled until the end of 2024, with only Franco Morbidelli’s Monster Yamaha contract expiring this year.

“I’d like to be a factory rider. I don’t want to lie about it. But it’s something hard. The contracts [factory seats for 2024] are very restricted and also you have to be very fast, first of all.

“It’s my target to one day arrive in a factory team. I hope it’s in Ducati, but anyway I’m happy with where I am [for now].”

Bezzecchi scored over four-times as many points as the next best rookie, Gresini Ducati’s Fabio di Giannantonio, last season on his way to 14th in the world championship. For comparison, Bastianini was eleventh in his debut premier-class campaign.

“I've improved a lot from the start of last year to now,” Bezzecchi reflected. “Looking at the data in Malaysia [test] was interesting. I wanted to see what I had changed. Honestly compared to last year, the way to ride is all different.

“Right now in MotoGP it’s very important the braking, to brake late and bring a lot of corner speed inside the corner, and to bring a good entry speed. Fortunately, I improved in these areas of the riding. Also, my way to manage the tyre has improved.

“This was a good step last year. As soon as I understood how to improve with managing the tyre, I was faster toward the end of the race compared to the beginning. There is still lots to improve but I can’t complain for the moment.”

One of the hot topics this winter has been the introduction of the new Saturday Sprint races and which riders and bikes might naturally be stronger or weaker in the half-distance events.

“Normally in MotoGP you have to [save] your tyres, don’t be too aggressive. So we’re not really used to really going 100% from the first moment. I don’t know what to expect in the Sprint race but I hope to be competitive in both,” Bezzecchi said.

The opening laps were not a strong point for the Italian last year, “but my experience was not enough [and so] this weak point was created. I hope to improve race by race this year and be more aggressive from the beginning. I did some training [towards this] and I hope I will be ready.

“I think we did a good job this winter. I can’t wait to see if everything went well.”

Bezzecchi will complete his pre-season preparations, alongside his MotoGP rivals, at Portimao this weekend.