Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia says MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo’s exit from the Aragon Grand Prix didn’t change his strategy despite the “huge opportunity” it offered for his title hopes.
Quartararo was eliminated on lap one when he ran into the back of Marc Marquez after the Honda rider had a small slide exiting Turn 3.
Bagnaia went on to finish second, 0.042 seconds behind Gresini’s Enea Bastianini after a thrilling duel, to reduce his championship deficit to Quartararo to just 10 points with five races remaining in 2022.
Knowing the “huge opportunity” Quartararo’s crash offered Bagnaia, the Ducati rider admits it didn’t alter how he approached the race – while adding that he wasn’t going to fight too hard against Bastianini if his future teammate was to come past on the last lap.
“Sincerely, it didn’t change my strategy,” Bagnaia said of Quartararo’s incident.
“My strategy was to set my pace, lap by lap because at the start I was feeling that the grip was not the same as it was in FP4.
“I was calm, I was just trying to be very smooth with the gas and then I just started to push a bit more, a bit more.
“And I was knowing that only Enea in this situation, because only Fabio and Enea had the same pace during the race, so I was already knowing Enea was for sure with me during the race.
“But it didn’t change many things for me. When I exited from Turn 7 I looked to the big screen and I see he crashed. So, I already knew.
“Today was very important to not commit any mistakes, because Fabio was unlucky and he gave to us a huge opportunity to recover a lot of points.
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“It was very important in the last lap to finish the race. When I see and feel that Enea was too close to me, I just tried to be relaxed, be calm, and I thought that if he overtakes me I will not take any risk – I will just finish the race in the best way possible.
“If I saw some mistakes, some errors, I would try [to overtake] back.
“But he didn’t in the last laps, so finally I am happy with the result. I gave my best today and I think we did a big difference compared to the others today.”
Bagnaia said after his San Marino GP victory, when he closed the championship lead to 30 points, that he would only start to think about the title when he was at least 10 behind Quartararo.
Now that eventuality has come to pass, Bagnaia says he will now consider himself a challenger – but will still try not to dwell on this much.
“For sure now it’s more clear that we are close,” he said.
“10 points is the lowest distance I ever had [to a championship leader] from the start of a season.
“So, for sure I will try to think about the championship, but not so much. I will think just about my work, I know that in Japan it will not be easy.
“We will have less time to test our bike, to improve our bike, and we know we need more time to be prepared compared to other bikes.
“But I’m quite sure we can be very competitive and I will try to work like we are doing and finishes the races how we already know.”