Miller: Bagnaia ‘changed man', Alex Marquez 'impressive, happy for him'

Francesco Bagnaia’s former team-mate Jack Miller believes the reigning MotoGP champion is looking stronger and more confident than ever ahead of the 2023 season.
Jack Miller, Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Jack Miller, Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

Bagnaia signed-off winter testing with both the fastest lap time and best Sprint race simulation at Portimao last weekend, making the Ducati star the overwhelming favourite when the new season starts at the same track later this month.

“I think he's looking stronger this year than he was last year, even after the strong end he had to 2021," said Miller, who has moved to Red Bull KTM for 2023.

“This year he seems like a different, more changed man, more confident man. And f**k, he's riding pretty impressively!

"I followed him for a very short time through that last corner, and that's a guy that has a lot of confidence in his motorcycle, for sure.”

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Bagnaia’s closest challenge, at least at the start of the season, could well come from within the Ducati camp – and not only new factory team-mate Enea Bastianini.

Miller picked out Gresini’s Alex Marquez as ‘most impressive’. The former Honda rider finished seventh fastest (+0.434s) on a 2022-spec Desmosedici at the test but was in firm contention for best-of-the-rest behind Bagnaia in the Sprint simulation.

“There's a few Ducatis up there that are going pretty decent, most impressive is Alex Marquez, seeing how well he's adapted to that bike,” said Miller, who fought against the Spaniard until the final round of the 2014 Moto3 World Championship.

“I think he's going to bed pretty happy most nights after the change he's made. I'm happy for him, hopefully he can do well.

“I think Enea [Bastianini] didn't have the best of tests, but he'll be there. It's a long season, sprint races…”

Miguel Oliveira, Joan Mir, Jack Miller , Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Miguel Oliveira, Joan Mir, Jack Miller , Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

‘Those Sprint races are going to be cool’

Like Alex Marquez, Miller also had just six days of winter testing to try and adapt to a new team and machine.

But unlike the dominant Ducatis, which filled seven of the top eight places at the Portimao test, Miller was the second-quickest KTM but only 17th on the timesheets (+0.984s).

Until he can refine the RC16 more to his liking, the new half-distance Sprint races are thus likely to be Miller’s best chance to impress.

“Those sprint races are going to be cool for sure,” Miller said. “I think it’ll be exciting, something new. And it gives us double the races, so double the chances.”

Agreeing that the frantic style of the shorter races should suit him, the Australian added: “I'm able to hang it out there and generally I can hang on for half a race distance, so we should be alright. It's the other half of the race distance...!”

While the issue of Sprint bonus money appears yet to be unresolved for many riders, Miller said:

“At the end of the day, I'm here to race motorbikes because I love it. Of course, we all want to get paid as much as we can, but I'm still stoked to have [the Sprint races] and be a part of them.”

MotoGP's first Sprint race will take place at Portimao on the afternoon of Saturday, March 25.

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