Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia could be on course for his maiden MotoGP World Championship this weekend as 2022 sees the action return to Malaysia.
A dominant comeback from a 91-point deficit at the start of the summer now finds the Italian 14 clear of reigning champion Fabio Quartararo with just Sepang and Valencia left to play out. And with the Desmosedici’s strong run of form in recent races, he’s looking like the firm favourite as Malaysia prepares for round 19.
“In this moment, I’m quite calm,” Bagnaia said from the pre-event press conference on Thursday. “Finally I know that our potential can be high. If we continue working like we did in the second half of the season, we can do a really good job. The main question here is the weather because it looks like it can rain on Saturday and Sunday, but let’s see.
“Doing 20 laps here with this heat and in wet can be very dangerous, very tricky and it's more easy to commit mistakes.
“Also I think that I'm more competitive on dry than on wet. It’s always very difficult to predict the weather here, but I think, if we work well, we have a great possibility.”
While the pressure to perform for his first premier class victory may be high, it’s not just that statistic that is on the cards.
“An Italian has not won the MotoGP title since 2009, and Ducati has not won the [riders’] title since 2007,” he confirmed. “It would be my first title in MotoGP so, for sure, the pressure is there. I feel that I’ll start having the pressure, but in this moment, I’m quite happy.
“I know that we did something really good this year, but we still have to finish the job and my main focus in this moment is on that.”
"My season is totally different compared to 2018,” Bagnaia reflected, after clinching his Moto2 title at the same circuit four years prior. “Then, it was very hard and it was my first title. I feel more relaxed in this moment compared to 2018, but it’s something that will totally change tomorrow or Sunday, because normally you start to feel the pressure on the race day.”
Bagnaia’s promise on the GP22 was rollercoaster at best during pre-season testing, especially coming off a stellar end to 2021, but with the momentum of the season increasing, so has his form.
“I wasn’t believing that our potential was what we demonstrated in the test because we were very slow,” the 25-year-old admitted. “I was trying to understand, I was trying to work, but it was very difficult to be constant, to be competitive, and from that moment, sincerely, we worked very hard to achieve this level.
“The biggest improvement was in Portimao,” he detailed. “When we were in Jerez, everything was already at the top level and from that moment, we have just adjusted something but I think the biggest improvement from that moment was on me, finally on my mentality. In the second part of the season I worked a lot. I tried to be the best figure of myself all the second part of the year, worked a lot to achieve this level.
“A race that give to me a lot of motivation was Silverstone,” he continued, looking back to the pivotal moments in his championship challenge. “I was really struggling all the weekend. I wasn't the most competitive. In the race I did the 13th best lap but all the weekend I just tried to be more competitive as possible also knowing that I wasn't able to win. Then I think we did the correct choice of the tyres and I started to learn from the others what to do better on the race and finally I won!
“But the key moment for sure was in Aragon when I finished on the podium. I finished second and Fabio unfortunately had the crash. For sure was a moment where I gained a lot of points, in a free way, because he didn't finish the race.”