Having fallen 91 points behind Fabio Quartararo before the summer break, everyone thought it was over. However, Pecco defied the odds and proved them all wrong.
The journey to the world championship throne was not an easy one for the young Italian. Pecco Bagnaia had often made costly mistakes, and had also been involved in a few controversial moments, which understandably earned him plenty of criticism throughout his MotoGP career so far. He has faced plenty of highs and lows throughout his time in MotoGP, but this time the highs have finally outweighed the lows as he produced a historic comeback to claim his maiden MotoGP world title.
His debut year with the Ducati factory team in 2021 was rather bittersweet – while he had a breakthrough season which saw him claim his maiden victory and fight for the world title, he had lost the title by a costly error, handing it to Fabio Quartararo with two rounds to spare.
The first half of his 2022 did not look any better either. He struggled to find consistency, only winning two races while he finished four races outside the top 4, while crashing out of another four races. It was no surprise that fans and media were critical of his lack of performance, and it took an even worse turn when he was charged with driving under influence over the summer break, where he was three times over the legal limit and crashed a Citroën road car. Although he apologised and claimed that it has not affected his preparations for the second half of the season, he was still heavily criticized by the fans and media, with some calling for an official sanction such as a race ban.
Bagnaia luckily escaped any punishment from the FIM, and stuck true to his words by returning with five wins and three additional podiums. He only ended two races of the second half outside the podium – one in the gravel, when he made a mistake whilst chasing Quartararo in Motegi, and the other in 9th at the Valencia finale, after he damaged his bike in a short but electrifying battle with Quartararo. His finish was enough to seal him the world championship, becoming the second ever rider to win a title with Ducati after Casey Stoner in 2007.
Bagnaia’s blistering form in the second half just proved that a season is never over until it’s really over. Up to the halfway point, everyone thought it was Quartararo’s to lose. After his mistake in Assen and Aleix Espargaro’s stunning comeback from the collision, some even thought that Espargaro would eventually take over the title lead. Bagnaia’s winning streak still wasn’t convincing enough to many, as they thought he was way too far behind in points. But at the end, anything can happen in racing. Quartararo was unluckily taken out of one race, and it just led to one mistake after another. Espargaro picked up a small injury, and Aprilia began suffering from tyre wear and reliability. In the blink of an eye, the 91-point deficit turned into a 23-point lead for Bagnaia, and was later proven to be the biggest points comeback for a world champion in the history of motorsports.
Aside from that, Bagnaia also became the first Italian rider to win on an Italian bike since Giacomo Agostini in 1972, as well as the first Italian MotoGP champion since Valentino Rossi in 2009.
The remarkable records however did not prevent the young Italian from being brutally honest about his performance over the season.
“The most difficult moment outside of today; well not today but yesterday, was Sachsnering,” Bagnaia told the media. “I was very competitive like in Le Mans with a possibility to win the race but I crashed.
“In that moment I recognised that my weak point was that I’m a rider with a lot of ups and downs, with a good speed but not with consistency. And to accept that was not easy. From that moment I recognised that I had a problem and I tried to improve myself.”
“I just lost the faith on the championship for like one hour after Sachsenring. But even in that moment I was knowing there was a chance to be world champion,”
“We performed in an incredible way in the second part of the season and we analysed everything at home to understand why I was crashing, why I was making so many mistakes.
“From that moment we did something incredible. We really deserved this title.”
At the end, there isn’t a champion who does not deserve their title victory. Pecco worked incredibly hard to get where he ended up, and even if luck played a part like it always does in all sports, he still got there one way or another. And considering the staggering deficit he overcame, he had easily proved that he is more than a worthy champion.
Bravissimo Pecco, moltissime felicitazioni!
Featured Image – motogp.com, Dorna Sports