Bagnaia 'confident', Miller 'determined and strong'

After a relatively quiet pre-season, will Ducati pick up where they left off at the end of last year as the team to beat in Qatar this weekend?
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP, Indonesian MotoGP test, 11 February 2022
Francesco Bagnaia, MotoGP, Indonesian MotoGP test, 11 February 2022
© Gold and Goose

Having won four of the final six MotoGP races and then led the Jerez test by almost half-a-second, Francesco Bagnaia's name was expected to be a regular fixture at the top of the pre-season testing times in Sepang and Mandalika.

It wasn't.

The Ducati star was ranked 19th, 6th, 22nd,10th and 5th over the five days of testing on the new GP22, with his average pace – including a final day race simulation - around half-a-second from the likes of Yamaha's reigning champion Quartararo and the new Hondas.

Like the other GP22 riders, Bagnaia admitted Ducati's new powerplant is yet to be perfectly tuned, in areas such as acceleration and engine braking, but expressed confidence that the bike is already performing at a high level - with more still to come.

"We have prepared the bike to race well in Qatar. Our pace and consistency was OK," title runner-up Bagnaia said at the close of testing. "We are working a lot and still we need to work more. 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. I think that this bike has more potential than last season's bike."

The Italian finished third and sixth in the pair of 2021 Qatar races, but Friday and Saturday will take on more significance this time around due to the absence of any testing at the track.

"The first Grand Prix of the year is always a special moment, and having it at night in Qatar makes the atmosphere even more impressive," Bagnaia said.

"We only had five days of testing at Sepang and Mandalika to prepare for the start of the Championship, so it will be crucial to make the most of Friday and Saturday for the final fine-tuning ahead of the race.

"The Lusail International Circuit is a track that suits very well the characteristics of our Desmosedici GP, so I'm confident and, as always, I'll aim for the best result!"

Jack Miller, Indonesia MotoGP test, 12 February 2022
Jack Miller, Indonesia MotoGP test, 12 February 2022
© Gold and Goose

Team-mate Jack Miller endured a disappointing Qatar last season, finishing ninth in both races, putting him on the back foot early in the championship battle although he later took two race wins and fourth in the world championship.

The Australian, who unlike Bagnaia is yet to sign for 2023, was 18th fastest at the close of testing.

"Racing is completely different but I feel as ready as we can be," Miller said before leaving Indonesia.

"You always have doubts in your mind. But at the end of the day, we need to stick to our guns and trust what we know, trust the engineers, trust everybody.

"The field is so full this last couple of years that anyone can win in Qatar. For sure the Ducatis will be strong, but like I said Qatar is a whole different kettle of fish[compared to testing. I feel calm, focused on what we need to do."

Speaking in Qatar, the 27-year-old added: "This year, as never before, I feel determined and strong, physically and mentally.

"In 2021, here in Losail, we were fast both in testing and in practice, but then we could not get the desired results in the race. I hope this year will be different and I can start the season as a [contender] right away!"

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