Enea Bastianini says he will reserve judgement on his tactical approach ahead of the inaugural MotoGP sprint race in Portimao having developed a reputation for coming on strong during the closing stages of grands prix.
The Italian makes his keenly-anticipated debut in official Ducati factory red this weekend alongside defending champion Pecco Bagnaia, a rider with whom he battled hard over the spoils on more than one occasion in 2022, most notably in Aragon, Misano and Sepang.
A triple race winner during his sophomore campaign with the satellite Gresini Racing squad, Bastianini’s signature ability to preserve the Michelin tyres deep into the race proved pivotal during his successes in Qatar and Aragon, while he won plaudits for securing a podium in a similar manner at each Misano race in 2021 on the unfancied Avintia Ducati.
However, it is a tactic that will be tested this season with the introduction of a sprint race format on Saturdays, which halves the race distance and features a modified scoring system, though has no bearing on the grid positions for Sunday’s full Portuguese MotoGP.
As such, Bastianini admits he will need to go into the race ‘without strategy’, adding it will place a greater emphasis on qualifying.
“The strategy of Sunday is completely different now, because of Saturday,” he remarked in Thursday’s pre-event press conference. “I think the [important] thing with the sprint race is qualifying, the normal race will be different.
“I probably have to try to attack from the start very early but it depends on qualifying, because if you start behind in the sprint race, there is a risk of crashing and it is important to stay always near the top.”
Bastianini anticipating threat from within
Despite the challenge, Bastianini remains relaxed about his competitiveness aboard a Ducati GP23 that has commanded the upper half of the timesheets in testing across the firm’s eight bikes.
However, having emerged as the dark horse of the 2022 season on a year-old Ducati, Bastianini is wary of the threat posed by his stablemates now that he has graduated to the factory outfit.
“It’s good to be in red,” he remarked. “We are working very well during the test and we are prepared for the first race
“A lot of Ducati riders are fast, I know many riders have this chance to win the title,” he continued. “All of the MotoGP riders are so fast - for the moment I don’t know who the best rider is.”
Bastianini, who replaces Jack Miller in the factory Ducati squad, stole the headlines at the 2022 MotoGP opener in Qatar with an emotional maiden victory on his debut with the newly-independent Gresini Racing squad.