Have the mind games begun between the top two in the World Championship? Some might say so as we get set for the gruelling run to Valencia where the MotoGP™ title will be won and lost.
In Ducati and reigning World Champion Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) backyard, Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) claimed a coveted clean sweep – pole position, Tissot Sprint win and a Sunday victory. Martin had to capitalise on Bagnaia’s injury troubles and did so in fine fashion.
On the other side of the coin, Bagnaia’s performance in Misano was that of a Champion. Less than a week on from his huge Turn 2 crash at the Catalan GP, Pecco was a double podium finisher on home turf. The fact the #1 could barely move when he pulled into Parc Ferme on Sunday afternoon told us everything we needed to know.
In the post-race Press Conference, having closed the gap to Pecco from 50 to 36 points at the San Marino GP, talk of the title race being on was understandably rife. Martin’s approach to the topic was interesting, with the #89 very relaxed about the situation, indicating there is no pressure on him to win the title because he’s not in a factory team.
“I just want to enjoy the moment. For sure, my target is to win races. As I told you before, I’m not even a factory rider, so it’s not on me to win the Championship,” said Martin.
“I feel that I don’t have that responsibility. For sure if I have the chance, as I am having now, I will try to get it, but my day will come when I’m a factory rider and for the moment I am not. For sure try to enjoy the moment, but it’s not on me.”
It’s true enough. Yes, Martin is riding a factory-spec Ducati Desmosedici GP23 that is the same as Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team), but he’s racing in an Independent Team. An Independent Team has never won a MotoGP™ riders’ title. The last time that was achieved was in the 500cc days when Valentino Rossi won his maiden premier class title in 2001.
Bagnaia took a light-hearted approach in reply to Martin, saying: “He has a lot of pressure. A lot, a lot. If we see that he is too close, we will close the gas a bit.” Obviously joking, Bagnaia continued and agreed with Martin’s point.
“But in any case, Jorge doesn’t need to be under pressure. He has to relax, like he is doing. It will be a good fight for sure. We lost points, it’s true, but we just managed to lose 14 points out of 37. This was the maximum thing, the thing that I am prouder of because it was easier to give up a bit and just finish the race. But today we managed to do a really great race and I’m happy.
“He can let me go if he thinks like this,” Bagnaia said jestingly. “I think it’s normal. He’s a rider. His mentality is to win. He demonstrated something incredible this weekend that just some riders can have, because doing a race weekend like this is just for the ones that want to win the championship.
“I think it’s up to anyone to win the Championship. Just to you, that you have to push, to work hard. Anybody points the finger to you and says, you have to win, so it's up to us, for me.”
As mentioned, 36 points is now the gap between Pecco and Martin. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) will still fancy his chances, but the Italian is 65 points adrift of Bagnaia. Eight races in 10 weeks now beckons for the MotoGP™ elite. A lot can happen. There will be twists and turns. The only thing we know for sure is this is the time of the year when the Championship will be decided. Bagnaia vs Martin, with Bezzecchi waiting to pounce, will be a compelling watch.