Despite having one victory less than six-time WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea, Bautista leads the 2022 championship standings by 17 points after three rounds.

Of course, a big reason for the Ducati rider’s lead is Rea’s DNF in Assen after suffering a coming-together with Toprak Razgatlioglu, but while the Kawasaki and Yamaha riders have made mistakes, especially Razgatlioglu as the reigning world champion threw away two potential race wins in Estoril, Buatista has remained faultless. 

With that said, limitations still remain aboard the Panigale V4 R for Bautista, making his straight-line speed all the more important.

"You can see in the straight that it’s easy, but you don’t see the problems that I can see during the rest of the lap," said Bautista. "For example, in turns 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 I lose a lot compared to Toprak [Razgatlioglu] and Jonathan [Rea], but I can’t improve a lot there because my bike is maybe stronger in other points. 

"In small sectors - slow sectors we are not so strong. It’s not a problem for me if people think I win because the bike is a rocket or something. I know the truth and I know how is the feeling. I know where we can go faster than the others." 

Bautista claims he ‘expected’ an overtake from Rea in race two, powerless to stop it

"For sure I expected it. In turn seven he tried to pass me and I was prepared to retake the lead, in fact, I did it. 

"But in the chicane I knew he would try and I closed [the door] and just left a few metres between the inside curb and me, but he just put the bike on the inside of me. 

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"In that corner it’s very difficult to defend the inside, more than I did. It’s also very difficult to recover the position because it leads very close to the next corner. In the end I could not hold the position and he gained it very well. With Jonathan for sure he will try at the last corner, once or twice."

Is Bautista showing WorldSBK champion form? 

Yes, we’ve been here before with Bautista as the former MotoGP rider dominated the early stages of 2019.

And although his title challenge disappeared in spectacular fashion, the Ducati rider looks to be a different rider so far in 2022, avoiding unnecessary mistakes and greater experience being two of the key improvements. 

Both consistency and experience are likely to prove vital this season as we’ve already seen what a crash between two of the top three riders can do. 

With the margin for victory so tight, being able to ‘attack’ at the right times will be crucial according to Bautista: "Jonathan was very strong [Estoril] and Toprak with Yamaha was very strong. In the end; before I arrived here, it was more a track to defend than attack. 

"It’s [a] good [track] for Ducati but I think it’s better for the combination of Toprak and Yamaha. Jonathan is always strong and it’s always a track to defend. There are only a few to attack like Australia maybe. 

"I’m surprised that Toprak in race two struggled more than normal and that he didn’t try to stay in the front. 

"From the outside it’s easy to say, but from the inside maybe he had a problem or something."   

Although Bautista is familiar in terms of battling against Rea, the level of aggression and hard racing has drastically stepped up since then (2019). 

Not known as a particularly feisty rider, Bautista has brought out that side to his game this season, while also keeping his cool at the right time.