Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia secured his dream of winning the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday afternoon with the full set of home pride.
Italian rider, bike, team and fans all celebrated at the iconic Tuscan track as Bagnaia took his place on the top step of the Mugello podium after an impressively battle around the 5.2km layout. But despite starting from the second row, the 25-year-old didn’t make it easy for himself in the opening stages. An uncharacteristically poor start from the Desmosedici rider saw him eighth on the opening lap with four other Ducatis, an Aprilia, a KTM and the reigning MotoGP Champion between him and victory.
“It was incredible!” Bagnaia exclaimed after the champagne. “I just tried to manage a great start, but I didn’t, because I arrived in the first corner that I was behind.
"I started quite well but the problem was that I was with one Ducati here and two here, so I was in the middle and I had to close the gas. I seen a lot of riders overtook me. I had [Marc] Marquez touch me also in the corner four so it was not easy. But I was just trying to be smart with the tyres and when you try to be smart is difficult, because the guys in front of you are always pushing a lot. So I just use the advantage that we have with the Ducati, that in the slipstream is great and to be smart with the tyre.
“Was very important to overtook the riders in front as soon as possible because I choose the medium front, and staying behind some riders can be a problem. So I just try to overtook riders, when I arrive to [Marco] Bezzecchi I tried to overtake him in the straight because I was knowing that my first braking was hard and just tried to set my pace and was enough to open a gap to control the other riders.
"Today the grip was not the best, I struggled a bit to be consistent with the rear tyre but speaking with Aleix [Espargaro] and Fabio [Quartararo] they had the same problem. So maybe it was for the rain of the night. We have to be very happy about the result. After the crash in Le Mans was important to restart from a result like this, was not easy because Mugello is always a tricky track, but we managed to do a perfect weekend.”
While celebrating his own achievement, the VR46 Academy rider was also singing the praises of his fellow campmates, after Mooney VR46 riders Bezzecchi and Luca Marini qualified on the front row for their home GP, remaining in the leading battle throughout with the pair crossing the line in fifth and sixth respectively.
“It is super special,” the Italian admitted. “I was happy for them. I was angry for me but happy for them yesterday because is like a victory for all the Academy.
"Looking them starting from second and third position was great and today I was fighting with them for the top positions, was great. Marco and Luca were riding so well, so I would like to have more battles with them during the year.
“It was great because for the first time I was seeing on the grandstand and in the grass, a lot of guys and people with my flag and was great. When I did the sighting lap, I look at the corner before Correntaio and there were more than 1000, I don't know how many, people with my flags, so I just decided to stop there after the win. I leave my bike, stop it and just throw everything possible. I was thinking to throw also my helmet but then I know that we will have a penalty if we ride without helmet so it was not possible to do it.”
While it’s not the first time Bagnaia has climbed the top step this season - having been victorious in last month’s Spanish GP - this one hit differently. Both in terms of what it took to seal the deal and in the rewards. Especially having crashed at Le Mans having led the way for the majority of the first 20 laps, last time out.
“Was not easy,’ he explained. “Compare Jerez was more difficult, because in Jerez the pace was similar but we had the opportunity to push from the start. In this track was more to manage and was not easy because the rear was sliding a lot in the entry.
“I was struggling a lot to stop the bike and to entry because the rear was always sliding a lot and I lose the rear a lot of times during the race, but finally since this gap that I gain in the start of the race, I had the possibility to manage a bit more and this race are the races that I like.
“For sure for the championship was important to take in points this race but I have to say that I was not feeling more pressure,” he said of the demanding few weeks.
“The pressure is always there. We are doing a job that you have to live with pressure. But just when you are enjoying your things, and mistakes can happen, but the good thing is to restart and don't think about your problems. Just think about your things that you enjoy and I really enjoyed this weekend. A lot. It's not always easy because sometimes you can be very angry - like I was yesterday afternoon after the qualifying, I was angry. But you have to be positive always, mistakes can happen.
“Is only my second podium here,” Bagnaia continued. “My last podium here was the first, was in 2016, and I struggle a lot to be again on the podium. Last year was hard for emotion but this year was very important to do it, for me, for my team, for the fans.
“It's something I dreamed of from when I was young because Mugello is Mugello. Misano is my home Grand Prix, but Mugello is the Italian Grand Prix so was very important to do the best result possible and more than this is impossible.”