Pecco Bagnaia fought back at Portimão to score his second podium of the season aboard his factory Ducati at the Portuguese GP.
The Ducati Lenovo rider was forced to start from eleventh on the grid after losing his pole position in Saturday’s qualifying due to a yellow flag infringement. Making a remarkable comeback, Bagnaia rode at a consistent pace, confidently overtaking his rivals to reach the leading group with seven laps to go. The Italian, having rejoined the fight for the podium, made a decisive attack on Mir, and with Rins and Zarco both crashing out, he took second place, which he held until the finish.
Thanks to today's result, Bagnaia also climbs to second in the overall standings, fifteen points behind the new leader Fabio Quartararo.
"I'm delighted with the result in today's race!” a jubilant Bagnaia said from Parc Ferme. “As I was starting eleventh, my goal was to finish in the top five, but instead I managed to get on the podium! Also, this was a track where I struggled a lot last season, but this year, my feeling with the bike was incredible and allowed me to make this great comeback. In the last laps, I was suffering a lot, but in the end, I was able to defend second place from Mir's attacks, and now we are also second in the championship. I want to thank my team for the great work we have done together this weekend!
“Yesterday I was a bit nervous,” he admitted. “After the qualifying and my lap was cancelled, so it was difficult to think of a podium, but then this morning in the warm up I was very strong. In the first part of the race I was struggling a bit with the full fuel tank. I tried to set my pace and I was recovering positions, catching every rider in front of me. Zarco was the last one but he was struggling more than me with the rear tyre - I start to feel the drop after 20 laps, so in the last five laps I was struggling a bit with the rear but in any case, I'm happy.
“Today the best result possible was the second position, Fabio was impossible to catch because he had the same pace, so I tried to make the best possible and we are now second in the championship which is another great thing. We have to continue in this way, but I think we can stay on this level for all the season.
“I'm in the factory team, and Ducati factory team means that you have to be on top, always. We demonstrated today that we can stay on top, because in a race like this, I was behind and recovering this position wasn't easy. This means to us that we are strong, and that we are working very well for this season, we have to continue this way. Jerez last year was one of the best races I've done - I didn't finish for the problem but I was running second - so we have to continue this way, and I think that we can stay on top like this. I feel stronger now, mentality, preparation, I think that I've changed a bit but I think that I will arrive more strong there.
“I think today the maximum result possible was the second position because Fabio in front was with too big a gap to recover. In any case, we lost yesterday the possibility to try to win - maybe was the same, second, but with a possibility to fight. Fabio today set a really strong pace and I think no one was expecting a pace like this, because today the grip of the track was very high and also the tyres were working very well. I think that everybody did an amazing job and I'm very happy because in a situation like this maybe last year, I would not be here. I’ve improved a bit my riding style in this situation and I overtook a lot of riders in some corners where I was thinking that it was difficult to overtake, so I'm happy.
“I was thinking that Joan was on my backseat, because I was hearing him and he was so close. I was thinking that if I was in front, till the last corner, was impossible for him to overtake me, because our acceleration is very strong and in the last lap, I make a good lap.”
Reflecting on his building potential in the championship and the possibility of an impending first victory, the Italian admitted: “I hope soon, but I think it's too soon to speak about championship now. It’s the first time that I'm second or on top like this, so I have to wait. This year my objective will be to be constant everywhere, every time, in all circuits where I was struggling last year. In this circuit I did it, because last year I was last, I think, or close to the last. So we make a great step in front but it's too soon to speak about the championship.
"I'm just happy to be second at the moment” he continued, “and I would like to continue in this way. We know that now we will arrive in circuits that I like, like Jerez, Le Mans, Barcelona or Mugello, so we will try there to be fast and maybe the first victory will arrive, but at the moment I'm just thinking to work like this weekend, where we are working very well, and try to do the best possible.”