Bagnaia 'feels great' on new Ducati, but 'I'm not the favourite'

MotoGP title runner-up Francesco Bagnaia 'feels great' despite a relatively low key pre-season testing campaign on the new Ducati; 'I think Honda have done a good job, Suzuki too, Aprilia too, and us'.
Francesco Bagnaia, Indonesia MotoGP test, 12 February 2022
Francesco Bagnaia, Indonesia MotoGP test, 12 February 2022
© Gold and Goose

Given Francesco Bagnaia's domination at the end of last year's MotoGP World Championship - winning four of six races, with a podium and crash from the lead in the others – it's perhaps a surprise that the Italian didn't lead a single day of 2022 pre-season testing.

Over the five days, two at Sepang, then three at Mandalika, Bagnaia was ranked a comparatively modest 19th, 6th, 22nd, 10th and finally 5th.

But the Italian stressed the priority had been dial-in upgrades made for the Desmosedici GP22, including the engine, and while he is confident the new bike has 'more potential' it's not completely clear if it is already faster than the proven GP21.

"They are two different types of engine, types of bike," he said of the GP22 vs GP21 comparison heading into the opening Qatar round on March 4-6.

"So you need a bit to change something in your riding style, and in these days I was concentrating on doing it, and finally I understood better in the last day how to do it.

"I did a lot of laps in this test, 210, to understand better. Finally, I found how to go quick with this bike just for one lap. For the pace, this bike is OK, but I was struggling a bit on doing a time attack, so I'm happy that today it was a bit clearer, a bit more easy.

"I think that this [new] bike has more potential than last season's bike. But I didn't ride the old bike [here], so I don't really know [which is faster now]."

There is little to chose between the two bikes in terms of top speed, a mix of both dominating the charts in Mandalika, and the GP22 very much follows the character of its predecessor.

"I think the strength of our bike is the same as last year more-or-less, it's the braking and the entry, and the acceleration for sure," Bagnaia confirmed. "Still we need something more on acceleration. But we are getting closer every time, so we are happy with the work done in these three days.

"We have prepared the bike to race well in Qatar. Our pace and consistency was OK. We decided to do the race simulation with a medium tyre, that was not the best option but we were very constant in terms of pace, so this is good.

"We are working a lot and still we need to work more. But with only five days of testing you need to try everything in less laps than normal. But it's OK like this. Finally we found a compromise that I like, so that I think that in Qatar we will start well."

Casting his eye over the timesheets, Bagnaia explained why it's so tough to predict who is currently the strongest.

"It's difficult to say who was the fastest because the worst tyre was the medium, but it is the only one they will bring for the race weekend here, because they will not take the soft," he said.

"So just me, Marini, and Bezzecchi were trying the race simulation with the medium [Quartararo also said he tried with the medium]. And it was really difficult to do more laps, because it was slippery and I was sliding a lot. The soft was for sure better.

"So looking at my pace when I was using the soft, it's very close to the fastest riders. But today was very important to do more laps with the medium, to understand the tyre, to understand the conditions, and today it was very hot, 62° on the asphalt, so the pace was not so bad considering the medium."

Despite his peerless form in the closing stages of last year, and positive comments at the end of pre-season testing, Bagnaia insisted it's too close to call for the start of 2022 in Qatar on March 6.

"For Qatar, I don't know who will be the most difficult rival, but I think Honda have done a good job, Suzuki too, Aprilia too, and us," he said.

"I feel great, but I'm sure I'm not the only one. There are a lot. For me, I'm not the favourite because I didn't win last year, Fabio won..."

VR46's Luca Marini was the fastest Ducati over the three days in third on combined times, with the GP22. Bagnaia's team-mate Jack Miller was 18th after electing not to try a time attack.

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