The Italian’s strong form continues as he took his fifth victory of the season.
After a relatively dismal start to his 2022 season, Francesco Bagnaia has shown his strongest form yet, emerging as a threat for the race lead in last eight rounds. While he crashed out of two of them on his own and was a passenger in the Catalunya pile-up, he managed to come out on top in the other five rounds, with today’s Austrian Grand Prix being his third in succession. The Italian looked unstoppable once again as he controlled the race once he took the lead, and it was too little too late for his closest rival to catch him in the closing laps, this time being championship leader Fabio Quartararo, who picked his way through the field after running outside the top five in the early stages of the race.
The race began with Enea Bastianini on pole, who battled with the lead group early in the race. It was unfortunately cut short as he damaged his wheel after hitting a kerb, and was forced to retire. This left the three Ducatis of Bagnaia, Miller and Martin to battle at the front, with Bagnaia in the lead. While Miller and Martin constantly remained behind the Italian, Martin began making moves for 2nd, which Miller retook multiple times. This also slowed the pair down further and allowed a charging Quartararo to close into the pair.
The Frenchman eventually got past both riders towards the closing stages of the race, with his notable overtake being on Miller for 2nd in the new Turn 2 chicane. He then chased Bagnaia down for the final three laps of the race, but his best efforts were just not enough as Bagnaia crossed the line to win his third consecutive grand prix, with Quartararo coming only 0.492s short. Just over two seconds behind, Miller kept 3rd to seal the podium, after a last lap lunge by Martin in Turn 1 saw the Spaniard tucking his front end and sliding away to the run-off, effectively handing Miller the podium. Martin eventually remounted to finish 10th.
Finishing 4th was a silent Luca Marini, a career best for the young Italian who continues his race finishing streak that lasted all the way since the 2020 Teruel Moto2 Grand Prix. The strong result also moves him ahead of VR46 Ducati teammate Marco Bezzecchi in the standings.
Johann Zarco had another difficult race, struggling to match the pace of the five fellow Ducatis ahead of him (before Bastianini’s and Martin’s eventual misfortunes) and committed several mistakes by running wide in corners. He managed to salvage a top 5 result, overtaking Aleix Espargaro late in the race. Espargaro meanwhile finished 6th, in a disastrous weekend for Aprilia which saw them significantly lacking pace.
It was certainly not a home round KTM hoped for, but Brad Binder made the best out of it to claim 7th place, beating Alex Rins to the line who was the sole Suzuki finisher in 8th.
Marco Bezzecchi rode a great comeback after having qualified 20th on the grid, finishing 9th ahead of Jorge Martin who covers the top ten after his last lap mistake.
Fabio DiGiannantonio returns to the points after finishing 22nd and last in Silverstone. He took a solid 11th, bringing some points home for Gresini after his teammate’s unlucky retirement. Miguel Oliveira closely followed to bring his KTM home in 12th, the last KTM points finisher of the day.
Maverick Vinales came off much worse compared to Espargaro this time, bringing his Aprilia home in 13th. He ran in the top 6 in the early stages of the race, before running wide in turn 4 and dropping behind his teammate. His race only got worse from then on as he lost a significant amount of pace and dropped out of the top ten.
Alex Marquez took the only Honda points finish of the day in 14th, while Andrea Dovizioso claimed the final point in what would be his penultimate MotoGP race. The Italian veteran is set to retire after the coming Misano Grand Prix, ending his MotoGP comeback early as Cal Crutchlow will take his place for the last six rounds.
Joan Mir was the first to retire from the race, crashing out of the first lap in a nasty highside which resulted in a broken ankle. Aside from him and Bastianini, Taka Nakagami, Darryn Binder and Franco Morbidelli were the other retirees of the day. Nakagami crashed out after briefly running as the top Honda, while Binder had a relatively strong start which saw him up to 12th before crashing out midway through the race, and lastly Morbidelli crashed out with three laps to go while running in the points.
Fabio Quartararo, who now has 200 points to his name, extends his title lead to 32 points ahead of Aleix Espargaro, while Bagnaia’s streak of wins edges him even closer to the Aprilia rider, now only trailing by 12 points. Johann Zarco remains 4th with 125 points, while Jack Miller covers the top five just 2 points behind the Frenchman.
The next race in Misano will bring bittersweet memories for Bagnaia. While it is his home round where he claimed his second MotoGP victory in 2021 in the first Misano round, he had also crashed out of the lead twice there, the latter time being in the second Misano round of 2021 which ultimately lost him the world title on the very same day. Will we see Bagnaia learn from the mistake and take his sixth win in nine races this year? We can only wait and see. Stay tuned for the next race!
Featured Image – motogp.com, Dorna Sports