It most certainly has been a whirlwind few days for Ducati and Francesco Bagnaia. Pecco delivered a first Riders’ Championship to the Borgo Panigale factory in 15 years, while he became the first Italian since Valentino Rossi in 2009 to claim the honour.
He is also the third consecutive first-time winner of the Championship, following in the footsteps of Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) and Fabio Quartararo to take glory. All three joined the premier class in 2019, a year when Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) would take his fourth title in a row and sixth in seven years, with Jorge Lorenzo interrupting his streak in 2015 and also preceding it in 2012.
Ahead of 2023, Bagnaia now has a choice to make that all Champions must make. Does he take on the #1 plates for 2023, or stick with the #63 that currently adorns the front of his Ducati?
In the past decade, reigning Champions have donned the 99, 93, 36 and 20 as riders show a preference for sticking to what they already have. However, it used to be the norm for a rider to switch to the #1 plate, think back to the likes of Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan, Wayne Rainey, Alex Criville and Kenny Roberts JR during the 500cc days, but in recent history, riders have opted to forgo the plate. In fact, in the MotoGP™ era, we have seen it just four times. The first was when the late, great Nicky Hayden ran it during the 2007 season, then Casey Stoner in 2008 on his Ducati before Lorenzo donned it the year after his maiden premier class title during 2011. The last time we saw it was across the front of Stoner’s Honda in 2012.
Having already emulated the Australian in bringing success to Ducati, will Bagnaia mirror the MotoGP™ Legend once again and emblazon the #1 across the front of his Desmosedici in 2023?