Enea Bastianini overcame a difficult weekend to triumph in the French GP after three crashes on his Gresini GP21.
Unsure of his pace and potential in the 27-lap race after a weekend littered with technical and tyre troubles, Bastianini bided his time and utilised his now-infamous late-race pace to capture first the podium then the victory at Le Mans. Ducati’s factory rider Pecco Bagnaia succumbing initially to his fellow Italian before crashing out at Raccordement five corners later.
“Very difficult race especially for me because I crashed for three times in this weekend,” Bastianini admitted from Parc Fermé. “Every time with the soft on the front because for me, was too soft this choice but in the race with the medium has been always better. Has been possible for me to battle for the podium and after, I win.
“Is not simple because Pecco was really fast. He brake very, very late, but I think I make him nervous when I overtaking him in the first sector and after he has committed an error after five/six corners and at the end stay fantastic for me to win today. The team have made really good work because we have put three bikes new in the weekend and I'm really satisfied for the guys because they are fantastic.”
With his latest crash coming during Sunday’s morning warm-up, Bastianini headed into the race a little apprehensive from fifth on the grid. His lightning quick start, however, brought him immediately into contention before a brief battle with Suzuki’s Alex Rins - with the Spaniard unlucky to crash out after just two laps.
“My strategy today was to stay calm on the first part of the race, to understand better what was my objective, because when I start the race, I wasn't really confident to be fast,” the Italian explained. “But then in the middle of the race when I see me with better pace than the other riders, I understand, ‘Okay, the last seven or eight laps I can push more to bring Pecco and to overtake him to try to do a victory.’ I wasn't also confident because Pecco was really fast but at the end this have put me on the first place.”
While the paddock reveres his late-race prowess, the 24-year-old is less than convinced of his ability.
“I can be lucky, I don't know,” he admitted modestly. “This race has been without one strategy. In the other was with a strategy. I have understand when overtaking Pecco, like all my races, always on the last part I'm more fast. I don't know why happen this because in this Grand Prix the drop of the tyre was not too much like the other ones but I'm here and I don't know really know why happen this!”
Bastianini has stood on the MotoGP podium in three of the first seven races of 2022, and all on the top step but which means the most, so far and why the inconsistency between victory and mid-pack?
"My favourite is Austin because the track is really special for me and to win the race of Texas is too special. Also the Qatar was special for me, but also a lot for the team because it's the first victory after many years and the first time without Fausto Gresini.
“Sometimes we aren't consistent because when we have some problems my riding style is not correct, when I have the problem on the front - because I ride a lot with the front tyre. We have had to follow the solution during this season and I think we arrived on the solution early but we will see.
“I'm happy to stay in Ducati because I riding this bike very, very well and I think is the best option for me now but I don't know at the moment my future, where is it?” he continued as silly season rumours begin to pick up traction.
“I think we can understand better this during the other races but I'm happy because Ducati offer me a good package, and I think we can want also in the Independent team.
Those ‘other races’ may prove key, especially with Mugello and the Borgo Panigale factory’s home race next on the schedule.
“It's a really special weekend for every rider I think but also for the Italians,” Bastianini reflected on the upcoming Italian Grand Prix. “I'm confident because after these three victories, I think we can be fast also in Mugello. I'm never gone on the podium in Mugello but I try to do this this year, because we are competitive and we can do this!”