Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia continued his recent MotoGP dominance by securing pole for the Aragon Grand Prix on Saturday afternoon.
Heading an all-Ducati lockout of the front row, Bagnaia was joined by teammates from this and next year as Jack Miller and Gresini’s Enea Bastianini sat second and third. His 1’46.069 lap just a tenth faster than the Australian as the closely-contested shootout drew to a close.
“I'm very happy about the lap time because I think it's one of my best I ever did because everything was perfect,” Bagnaia said from Parc Fermé.
“I never did a lap before that’s so perfect, when I’ve pushed so hard.
"I was just a bit scared in corner two because I was knowing that the best lap time was on the first attempt, but corner two the front tyre was a bit too cold and when I entered I feel that the front was closing a bit,” he explained. “But I was knowing that was the only worry to take because then was everything perfect. I was losing a bit of time in sector four all the practice but then in qualifying was perfect so I'm very happy. It’s the best way possible to finish the Saturday.”
With Bagnaia 30 points adrift of championship leader Fabio Quartararo as the title fight intensifies, the fact the Yamaha rider will line up in sixth, behind four Ducatis and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro, may provide the breathing space required for another successful Sunday.
“Looking at the race, we are strong, but Fabio is also very strong so starting at the front is for sure an advantage.”
Having completed four race wins in a row last time out at Misano, Motorland Aragon is a different challenge for the Italian, with grip levels at the mountainous circuit the main topic of concern.
“I think that we were thinking about that because we are just arriving from Misano,” Bagnaia admitted. “In Misano the level of grip is so high but considering the pace, the lap time we are doing with used tyres and the lap time we did in qualifying, we are faster than last year. So for me, the level of grip this year is a bit better because we didn't have wet sessions so the grip was higher every session.
“Will not be easy to understand the level of grip because after Moto2 race always is a bit different,” he continued, looking ahead to Sunday’s 23-lap race. “In races where the level of grip is low, even is worse. So in any case, will be important to start pushing from the first corner, trying to put some heat on the tyres and then look to manage a great pace. Is not easy, but I think will be faster than the last year.”
While the 26-year-old’s focus is on the coming Grand Prix, the MotoGP championship has also been defining the future with a revised schedule for 2023 unveiled at the Spanish circuit. Sprint races introduced to Saturday afternoon’s format have given way to a shorter warm-up on Sunday morning, with just ten minutes allocated for the premier class - with the support classes cut altogether to mixed reaction.
“Ten minutes of warm-up for sure are okay,” Bagnaia confirmed. “Because in this moment you finish the work before the warm-up normally. We asked for the warmup just to be sure, if, in case you in qualifying have a crash, you can check if your bike is okay on track. And this is the only reason why we asked for the warm-up. In 10 minutes you can do just three/four laps I think, so is I think enough to be prepared for the race.”