Following an eventful weekend in Misano which saw Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) wrap up the title, only two fixtures remain on the 2021 MotoGP™ calendar. Portimao and Valencia are the destinations, and there will be particular interest in both events as they offer fans one final glimpse of Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT) in action ahead of his impending retirement.
Undoubtedly the nine-time World Champion will be a loss to the sport, but concerns over the future of Italian racing have been quickly put to bed given the performances of their next generation of talent this season. That’s according to Giacomo Agostini, a 15 time World Champion, Max Biaggi, a four-time 250cc Champion, and 1981 500cc Champion Marco Lucchinelli.
Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) title bid may have fallen short this year, but his performances on the track, along with Enea Bastianini (Avintia Esponsorama) and Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), have caught the eye of all three MotoGP™ legends.
"Bagnaia is living a magical moment, his riding is close to perfection, I would never have expected him to crash on Sunday, but riding at the limit like that it can happen," said Agostini in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"After Aragon I congratulated him, can you understand what it means to ride a whole race with Marquez just a tenth behind you and not make a single mistake? He's a very good rider, and I like his personality a lot, he's a serious guy, maybe a bit closed off, not as expansive as Valentino. In that respect, I think the two of us are a bit similar."
Bagnaia vows to come back stronger after Misano heartache
"I'm also happy to see Morbidelli coming back, last year with the satellite Yamaha he was very strong, it's clear that he's not yet at his best, but his talent is not in question and the first laps on Sunday showed us that. Even if, for the moment, I see him a little behind Bagnaia, who has the most."
"As for Bastianini, he's growing in the right way, he's got the hang of MotoGP™ with the Desmosedici from two years ago, and little by little Ducati will help him more and more. I like him a lot, in the two Misano races and in Texas he showed that he is growing. Watching him ride is a real pleasure."
Biaggi is still heavily involved in Grand Prix as he heads up Moto3™ team Sterilgarda Max Racing Team and feels that Bagnaia is currently best placed to become the next Italian Champion.
"I like them all, but if I had to talk about today I would say Bagnaia, but if you look back a year later there's that great second place finish by Morbidelli, who wasn't even 100% supported by Yamaha. I think that, once he's physically fit, Morbidelli will have a very good chance, what he's done in recent years has impressed me, even if he's up against a Bagnaia who is now a reality and a Ducati that is going very fast."
From P16 to P6: Bastianini showcases his Sunday skills
"Of the three, on paper, the most disadvantaged is Bastianini, who won't have the technical means of the other two. But Enea is impressing me a lot with the way he is racing: Misano is helping him, for sure, but 4th place in Texas is no accident. I talk to him sometimes, he has undoubtedly the talent, and in fact, he expressed it in Moto2™, but also now that he is in MotoGP™ he is showing the right qualities."
As for Lucchinelli, he believes that it is still too early to say who will go on to be the most successful, but feels the competition between compatriots should lead to a healthy on-track rivalry.
"I almost have to say that it's a shame there are so many of them, because having three Italians one against the other could also become a problem. The good kind, though, like when in my day I raced against Franco Uncini and Virginio Ferrari. But it's still early to say which of the three will be the best."
"On Sunday I really liked Bagnaia, he went down, it's true, but he was ahead of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and he was beating him. You fall when you try to win."
"I also liked Morbidelli, who as long as he wasn't in pain he was in the race. At the start of the season, I didn't even know Franco had knee problems, but even with the older bike, he showed some good things. Bastianini? I liked Enea a lot, even in the smaller bikes, and he's really another great talent we have here. He has the oldest Ducati at his disposal, but he's always up there with the best, and he's proving to be very consistent. And he never complains, and I really like people like that."
"To tell you the truth, I have to say that none of them do that, but it's a characteristic of young people, at the beginning, you never break down, then as you get older you start to complain. The only one who still doesn't do it is Marquez, and maybe that's why I still like him."
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