Francesco Bagnaia: I'm not a tester, I'm here to win

Francesco Bagnaia wants emphasis on set-up work, not new parts, after nightmare start to 2022 MotoGP season in Qatar.
Francesco Bagnaia, Qatar MotoGP race, 6 March 2022
Francesco Bagnaia, Qatar MotoGP race, 6 March 2022
© Gold and Goose

A troubled weekend for title runner-up Francesco Bagnaia came to a premature end when he fell, and took out fellow Ducati rider Jorge Martin, in Sunday's Qatar MotoGP season-opener.

"I was a bit late on entry with Jorge, but it was not a really hard braking. So it was quite strange to have the front locking, but it's like this," Bagnaia said of his lap 12 accident, while trying to pass the Pramac rider for eighth place.

"I have just to say sorry to Ducati, to Pramac, and to Jorge, first of all, and just focus on the next race."

The Lusail round began with the news that the factory Ducati team had homologated a 'hybrid' engine, created using a 'mix' of 2021 and 2022 engine parts, while leaving the full GP22 engine in the hands of satellite riders Martin, Johann Zarco and Luca Marini.

The engine decision pointed to plenty of behind-the-scenes work during pre-season testing, with the factory team of Bagnaia and Jack Miller presuming swapping between various engines and associated parts to try and find a solution to some aggressive acceleration issues.

Bagnaia suggested the extra development workload continued into the grand prix weekend, costing him valuable set-up time and leaving him unprepared for the race.

"It's strange, because all the new Ducatis started so badly," said Bagnaia, who had qualified ninth. "I was 16th in Turn 3. Then I started to push to recover positions, but we were not ready at all to fight for the win today. It was too ambitious to think about victory, but we have tried to recover positions.

"My pace was not so bad, it was quite good, thinking about what we have done this weekend. The most important thing will be to start from this, and not touch anything on the bike any more.

"From the first day of the test, I never rode with the same bike for two sessions in a row. So my feeling was a mix of feelings. Because I was discovering things again during the race. So this is something unacceptable for me. So I have to be more focused on my riding style, to adapt better.

"And to work for the track, because from the first day of testing until FP3, we never worked to adapt my riding style to the track or the bike. So this means you will never arrive ready to the race. And this was the situation."

Quizzed on the need to develop new parts as a factory rider, the Italian added: "In the past, it was not like this. You have a satellite team that work more on these things. But OK, in any case I'm not a tester, I'm here to win, and I [need] to be concentrated on riding in the best way possible.

"We only had five days of testing [but] I think we have to test just in the test. Not during a race weekend. [Otherwise] it will be more difficult to reach a result like last year.

"Because I really need to be concentrating on adapting my riding style to the bike. I was not ready with the bike for the race, because the setting was not OK for the track, the electronics was not OK for the track. We were behind.

"In any case, I know that the task of a factory rider is to work [on development], but if we want to win, we have to be more concentrated on me during a race weekend."

Bagnaia also highlighted the difference between his situation and that of debut race winner Enea Bastianini, using last year's proven GP21 at Gresini:

"It's clear that the bike that last year was winning all the last races, won today. Because it was already very competitive last year.

"So Enea, from his first day of test, they only had to put fuel in the bike and ride it. And we were concentrating too much on developing. And from my point of view, we will never touch the bike again, and just ride."

Bagnaia's comments resembled KTM's explanation that some of its difficulties last season were down to the factory team testing new parts in Friday practice. A change of approach for 2022 is now based around the principle that 'the race team should race' and Brad Binder was runner-up to 'Bastia' on Sunday.

Pressed on whether he wanted the satellite Ducati teams and/or test rider Michele Pirro to shoulder more of the testing work, Bagnaia, who finished third on his factory Ducati debut in Qatar last season, replied:

"No, I just asked Gigi to work more like we did last year. That was, in Austria, we decided on a setting, and from that moment, I didn't touch anything on the bike, I was just thinking about me.

"Because I think that you can give to us something new that is more powerful, faster, better, but if you don't have time to adapt to it, you can't go faster, because it's something new.

"So it's difficult to say. But in this moment what I need is to adapt the bike better to me, to make possible that I can be faster and good on the race.

"Because the difference between me and Enea, from the first day of the test until now, was that every session I changed something, I tested something, and he just put fuel in the bike and rode it.

"So if you want to win, you need a stable situation, and in this moment, this is what I need."

Bagnaia backed the decision to pick the 'hybrid' engine, rather than the GP21 or GP22 powerplant.

"I think this spec is better than the old one [GP21]. But it was better only from FP4. The problem is that I was needing to do more laps with it, and it was too late. I was not ready for the race," he said. "We already know that the '21 is better in this moment – not better, but more in shape, because it was the bike that won the last races, and it was the best combination of things about Ducati. And now we are working with a new [bike] that still needs more work.

"But considering from where we started this weekend, and considering my pace and my riding style in the race, we did a good step in front. I was not ready to fight for the win, but I was ready to fight for the positions more in front. For sure we have to start from that point. We don't have to test any more, and from now we can be more competitive on the setting and the riding style."

Bagnaia's accident completed a double DNF for the factory Ducati team with Miller forced out by an early technical problem.

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