Francesco Bagnaia ‘thrilled’ but ‘feet on the ground’

Reigning MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia smashed the Portimao lap record during a dream final day of 2023 pre-season testing.
Marco Bezzecchi, Francesco Bagnaia , Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Marco Bezzecchi, Francesco Bagnaia , Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

The Ducati star knocked 0.8s from his Saturday time to defend his position at the top of the timesheets, becoming the first two-wheeled competitor to lap the circuit in under 1m 38s.

Bagnaia’s Sprint simulation was equally formidable, the Italian setting a peerless average of 1m 39.0s over the 12-laps, in preparation for MotoGP’s first half-distance race at the same circuit on the afternoon of March 25.

"I'm thrilled with how the five days of pre-season testing went, including the three days in Malaysia last month. We improved in every session and completed our work programme,” Bagnaia said.

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“After I did 1m 38.1 during the Sprint [simulation, I was quite sure to do a 1m 37 during the time attack. The conditions were a bit worse, but I had time to do two time attacks… when I saw 1'37 I was happy."

Bagnaia’s form meant he was unanimously named as rider to beat for the upcoming season opener, but the #1 warned.

“I like the new bike and prefer it to last year's, but now we must keep our feet on the ground and keep working with our heads down to be fast on every track.

“The other manufacturers have also taken important steps forward, so we must stay focused.

“Testing is one thing, the race weekend is totally another.

“I don't like to say that one [rider] is the favourite during the test because you don't know what tyre the rider was using, or work they were doing. Like Marc, he didn't do a time attack.

“Or Enea [Bastianini], who did just one time attack, for sure his second would be close to me.”

Nonetheless, in contrast to one year ago, Bagnaia feels 100 percent ready for the new campaign.

“I'm very happy about everything, I'm very happy about the Sprint race simulation, I'm very happy about the tyres, the time attack,” he said.

“We can say that if the race will be tomorrow, we are ready to fight for the win. That is clear. But then more than one rider is competitive to fight for the top positions.

“In any case, we can say that we are ready at 100% to start the season.”

In a further blow to Ducati’s rivals, Bagnaia revealed he had been testing with higher front tyre pressures throughout the weekend, even though the stricter real-time monitoring won’t result in penalties until at least round four.

“All the laps in this test, we have worked as if the rules about the front pressure is there,” he said. “It's a bit different, a bit risky, because if there's someone in front it becomes more dangerous [when the temperature and pressure rise].

After gathering experience with the real-time pressure measurements in the opening three rounds, it is thought that riders will then need to stay above the minimum tyre pressures for at least 50% of a race distance or risk disqualification. A similar tolerance will be applied to qualifying laps.

“If [the tyre pressure rules] will be like this, we are prepared. If it will not be like this [and the proposed pressure tolerance is changed], it will be for sure safer for everyone.”

Yamaha's Fabio Quartararo, runner-up to Bagnaia last season, was the only non-Ducati rider in the final top eight at Portimao.

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