Stoner: Ducati’s handling not the best; championship due to Bagnaia, not Ducati

Casey Stoner says that “the way Ducati handles things isn’t always the best”, and gave full credit for last season’s MotoGP championship victory to Francesco Bagnaia.
Casey Stoner (AUS), Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati, 27, 2007 MotoGP World
Casey Stoner (AUS), Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati, 27, 2007 MotoGP World

Bagnaia and Ducati return for the 2023 season-opening Portuguese MotoGP as the rider and the team to beat.

But Stoner, whose 2007 championship could not be repeated by Ducati for 15 painful years, insists the Italian manufacturer don’t warrant much of the credit for Bagnaia’s glory.

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“Maybe the way Ducati handles things isn’t always the best,” Stoner told BT Sport. 

“They’ve had the best bike for a while but still [didn’t] get the job done. I would put the championship down to Pecco and Jack Miller’s actual riding, to give them a chance at the championship, rather than Ducati handling it as it should have been.

“Pecco kept his head. He probably got to a point where he wasn’t thinking about the championship - ‘there’s no chance’.

“He just went for race wins. It’s amazing when you don’t have the trophy on a pedestal how much more naturally you can ride.”

Ducati went through a period of disarray after Stoner’s 2007 championship, encompassing Valentino Rossi’s two barren years then Andrea Dovizioso’s near-misses in his title fights.

The arrival of Gigi Dall’Igna is widely credited as the turning point, and in Portimao this weekend the Desmosedici is expected to prove itself as the best bike on the MotoGP  grid.

Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

But Stoner says about the start of the 2022 winning season, a year ago: “Ducati were lost at the start of the year because they keep developing, throwing parts at the bike, and you can’t get a real feel for it.

“There are good opportunities [for Bagnaia] to not make too many mistakes at the start of the year, then you can make up ground.”

He offered insight into Bagnaia’s character: “Pecco is quite calm. He has a steeliness to him that says: ‘If I want to do this, then that’s it, you won’t convince me otherwise!’

“As with all motorbike riders, all of us have… I wouldn’t call it an arrogance. It’s a bit of pride, I suppose. When somebody explains what to do differently, if it doesn’t make sense to you and your sense of riding, there is always a defence of why you can’t get it to happen.

“But if you don’t have that, then people have convince you of anything.

“It’s also what makes us all different. It gave Pecco the chance to win the championship last year. To come from so far back, the biggest comeback in history, I think that shows a lot of his character.

Casey Stoner (AUS), Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati, 27, 2007 MotoGP World
Casey Stoner (AUS), Ducati Marlboro Team, Ducati, 27, 2007 MotoGP World

“As much as Pecco makes mistakes, he also does flawless races.

“We’ll see how he defends it. Whether it takes the pressure off him, he says: ‘OK, now I know how to do it’.

“Or if it puts more pressure on to make sure he doesn’t make mistakes. If he puts himself that far down again [in the MotoGP standings] I don’t think there’s much chance of winning another championship.”

Stoner’s title defence in 2008 was unsuccessful - he was edged by Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi. Bagnaia, and Ducati, will hope that isn’t a sign of things to come.

Stoner’s advice to Bagnaia returning to MotoGP as the reigning champion: “Clean slate, other than the number on the bike which you get the privilege of wearing. When you are racing and you need to make a call of whether you go for the win or not, that comes later in the season.

“Earlier in the season, you take stock and try to get points. We’ve all made mistakes. The win feels like it’s there, and the mistakes come. 

“You learn from them as much as you can. But just move on.”

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