The Italian edges closer to a maiden MotoGP title with one round to go.
At this point, it is hardly a surprise to see Bagnaia and Bastianini battling for the lead and finishing 1-2. The two Italians have stolen the show numerous times in the second half of the season, with the latter proving over and over again why Ducati made the right call signing him to the factory team. This time, it was Bagnaia who took the top step, after the pair swapped places in numerous stages of the race. He now leads the championship by 23 points, as he aims to become Ducati’s second ever champion after Casey Stoner.
The race began with the main title contenders starting below the top 8, while Bastianini started 2nd behind Martin on pole. Bagnaia immediately made an impact, flying off 9th on the grid and had already made it to 2nd within two corners. Fabio Quartararo meanwhile found himself on the top six after having qualified 12th, while Aleix Espargaro struggled to make an impact as he found himself fighting for the top 10, suffering from grip issues once again. Bagnaia and Bastianini already began battling for position early in the race, but it was not until the 7th lap where they found themselves battlinmg for the lead as Jorge Martin crashed out of the lead. After numerous intense battles and position changes, Bagnaia eventually made his race-winning move at the final hairpin with 7 laps to go, and held onto the lead for the rest of the race, holding off Bastianini by 0.240s at the end.
Sealing the podium is Quartararo, who managed to take his first podium since Austria. The Frenchman was briefly challenged by Marco Bezzecchi for the podium, but managed to pull away and beat the Italian by over 2 seconds at the end. The podium effectively kept Quartararo’s championship hopes alive, albeit slim as he now trails Bagnaia by 23 points ahead of the Valencia finale.
Australia victor Alex Rins took a solid 5th, after enjoying a thrilling battle with Jack Miller and Marc Marquez who finished 6th and 7th respectively. Brad Binder meanwhile took the top KTM result again, taking a solid 8th ahead of Johann Zarco in 9th. Franco Morbidelli originally crossed the line 10th, but was later docked a place after he had apparently collided with Aleix Espargaro in a last-lap overtake attempt, and Espargaro was eventually handed the final top 10 spot.
With Bagnaia’s blistering form and Espargaro’s mysterious slump, the latter has now fallen out of championship contention. On the high side, Espargaro has experienced his best season in his grand prix career, taking his maiden win and five additional podiums, adding to his previous career tally of three grand prix podiums across 17 seasons. Bastianini has also been eliminated from the title race, but has ridden an impressive season nonetheless, as he now aims for the top 3 in the final standings on the year-old Ducati.
For the first time since 2017, the title will be decided in the season finale at Valencia. With a 23-point advantage, it definitely leans very much on Bagnaia’s side, but then again anything can happen in a race. Will Bagnaia take his maiden MotoGP title with the odds on his side, or will Quartararo defy the odds and overcome the whopping deficit? The showdown is on, stay tuned for the finale!
Featured Image – motogp.com, Dorna Sports