Pecco holds off a late-charging Bastianini to make it four in a row, and becomes Ducati’s first rider to achieve the feat.
Francesco Bagnaia’s season has quickly gone from misery to contentment, and he has made it look incredibly easy each time. From what was once a 91 point deficit to the championship leader, the Italian has managed to cut it down to 30 with six rounds to go. This time he was challenged throughout the race with Maverick Vinales tailing him for most of the first half, before he dropped back as Bastianini made his charge to the front towards the end.
The race began with Jack Miller at the front, who took his first pole in four years. Bagnaia qualified 2nd, but a grid penalty sent him three places behind. Miller launched quite well from the front row, taking the holeshot and fending off Bastianini. Chaos already erupted at the start as Johann Zarco, Pol Espargaro and Michele Pirro were wiped out in the first turn, in what looked like a KTM rider clipping Zarco while overtaking on the inside. A lap later, Fabio DiGiannantonio and Franco Morbidelli collided, eliminating the latter. Another lap later, Miller lost the front and fell from the lead, and yet another lap later, Marco Bezzecchi made the same mistake whilst impressively running in the top five, having started the race in 3rd.
Bagnaia quickly took the lead from Bastianini, who then lost a place to Vinales after the Spaniard made a brave lunge in Turn 8. The lead pack consisted of Bagnaia, Vinales, Bastianini and Luca Marini for most of the race. Fabio Quartararo and Aleix Espargaro looked like emerging threats for a moment, before they eventually dropped back as the leaders were exchanging fastest laps throughout the race.
Vinales very often came close to the tail of Bagnaia, but would always lose momentum in the second sector and would have difficulty finding a way past the Ducati rider. He also ran wide on several occasions, before dropping back gradually as Bastianini retook 2nd. The Gresini rider gradually began to get close to Bagnaia lap after lap. He seemed close enough to overtake, but made no attempts as he waited for the final lap of the race. Unfortunately, Bastianini made a mistake in Turn 4, running wide and nearly wiping out his future teammate from the rear. Many thought the race was over by then, but Bastianini miraculously reached Bagnaia’s tail towards the final corners of the race. Pushing incredibly hard, Bastianini got a better drive out of the final corner and pulled alongside Bagnaia, but came short of a mere 0.034s from the victory. It was Bagnaia’s sixth win of the season, and Bastianini’s first podium of the season that wasn’t a race victory.
Vinales sealed the podium, finishing in the rostrum for the third time for Aprilia. Marini took another impressive 4th place finish a second behind, again continuing his race-finishing streak, while Quartararo came short of catching the Italian to take 5th just half a second adrift.
Aleix Espargaro took a solid 6th as he struggles to reach the podium again having finished outside it the last five races. He finishes ahead of fellow Spaniard Alex Rins, who finished as the sole Suzuki in the points. Brad Binder finished as the top KTM once again, finishing 8th after passing Jorge Martin late in the race, who settled for 9th. Alex Marquez covered the top 10, finishing as the top Honda for the second race running.
Miguel Oliveira finished 11th, beating Andrea Dovizioso who takes 12th in his final MotoGP start. The Italian fended off Raul Fernandez and Stefan Bradl, who scores his first points of the season on the Repsol Honda, while fellow Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami claimed the final point. The title fight seemed to have come alive again with Bagnaia’s relentless form, after several races which saw Aleix Espargaro struggling with injuries and some misfortunes which cost him a few podiums. With the 91-point deficit cut down to 30 in the blink of an eye, it will be interesting to see if Bagnaia can keep his form up, or if Quartararo can return to winning ways soon.
The next round in Aragon will also be another strong track for the Italian, where he famously beat Marc Marquez in a duel that lasted all the way to the finish line. Will he win in Teruel turf for the second year running? We will find out soon, stay tuned for the next race!
Featured Image – motogp.com, Dorna Sports.