It was tense. It was awesome. And it was won in style – defeating the reigning Champion over 22 laps of the Lusail International Circuit. Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) trailed Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) for much of the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar, picked his moment, made a decisive move for the lead, and then kept it together to become a MotoGP™ race winner. And all that in the unbelievable context and tension of #PECCOvsMARTIN.
That context and tension was Bagnaia leading the way for much of the race and Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) facing a comeback after a bad start, before then losing more positions too as he faded down to tenth. Bagnaia didn’t seem to know that either, as the #1 nearly opened the goal for himself as he tried to attack Diggia in return and sailed into the run-off at Turn 1. With the gap behind enough for him to get back on track in second, it was a heart-in-mouth moment but only a moment.
Third place went to Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) as the number 10 got his elbows out in the fight at the front and then found enough in the locker to hold off a charge from Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) over the final few laps.
As the lights went out, everything changed in an instant. Split by just 0.022 and one position on the grid, by the exit of Turn 1 Bagnaia had shot through to steal the holeshot from Marini as Martin suffered a difficult start and dropped back to eight, behind teammate Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing). Not long after that the team showed the Frenchman who was behind him too, and he either had a moment and dropped back or heeded a message and let Martin through. With the added complication of Viñales glued to the rear wheel of the number 89 and getting past as well.
Right at the front though, Bagnaia held firm with a few tenths in hand – ahead of quite a squabble too. Diggia got through on Marini And Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) tried to follow suit, but had to wait a few corners before he got through. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) needed no invitation to slice past the number 10 either, before also attacking Alex Marquez. Unhindered by the battle, Bagnaia marched on. And so did Diggia – able to unleash his pace and start to reel in the Ducati Lenovo machine ahead.
Martin had his hands full too. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) was right on his tail and Viñales right behind the number 93 too, with Zarco watching on and Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) catching the group as well.
At the front, Bagnaia and Di Giannantonio still had Binder for company, but the gap would start to increase from there on out as the KTM was left to battle Alex Marquez and Marini instead. The gaps behind Martin, however, were even smaller as a queue was forming behind the number 89.
Viñales was the first mover in the group to get past Marc Marquez and then stalk Martin before making a move. Once past, the Aprilia was gone. The Repsol Honda then attacked and took over before heading wide, letting Martin and Quartararo back through. El Diablo wasted no time in then dispatching Martin, leaving Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) next up as the number 89 was down to eighth again. Miller was through with 10 to go, and next up was Zarco. What would the Frenchman do?
The battle for victory, however, was now a duel: Bagnaia vs Diggia. The laps ticked down and the gap went out to a few tenths then back down, but no move was made in a tense game of chess. Lap by lap, the two marched on round Lusail. Plenty of moves were made in the podium fight though as Viñales arrived at Binder, Alex Marquez and Marini, with too many headlines to choose as the elbows came out.
By five to go, “Mapping 8” appeared on Diggia’s dashboard, before “0000000” appeared on his pit board. Everyone was left wondering what that exactly meant. Regardless, as Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) also made his way through on Martin, more points in the title fight were on the line at the front as Diggia decided to make his move.
It was a pretty perfect one at that, squeezing through at Turn 12. And Bagnaia tried to reply on the cutback but Diggia shut the door. From there they headed round the final sector and then corner before blasting onto the main straight, and then hearts went into mouths in the Ducati Lenovo box.
Bagnaia tucked in and gained down the straight before pulling out to try and take the lead back – and couldn’t get it stopped. He managed to pull up enough to avoid clattering into the Gresini and headed into the run off, then able to scrub off the speed and rejoin in second. Own goal avoided for the Championship leader, but that was that if Di Giannantonio could do three more clean laps of Lusail. And he could!
Crossing the line with 2.7 seconds in hand, the Italian becomes the eighth different winner of the season and takes an emotional maiden MotoGP™victory. Bagnaia takes those 20 points to extend the gap to 21 over Martin, with the Spaniard crossing the line in tenth after a dramatic weekend of contact in the Tissot Sprint, a little glory and disappointment for both riders, everything on the line… and the title fight definitively to be decided in the final round.
Marini completed the podium as he pulled enough out late on to stay out of range of Viñales, with the Aprilia rider still charging up to fourth. Fifth went to Binder, ahead of Alex Marquez and Quartararo, who got extremely close to that fight in the final laps. Bastianini also charged up the order, setting a scorcher late on and finishing eighth ahead of Miller.
Behind Martin, a final frisson of stress hovered in the form of Marc Marquez over the final lap, but the number 93 couldn’t find a way through. Zarco, right behind both the number 93 and his own teammate Martin, tried a move though – and made some contact with Marquez, the Honda staying up but Zaroc barely, dropping back a few seconds to take P12 only tenths ahead of Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team). Joan Mir (Repsol Honda Team) and Rookie of the Year Augusto Fernandez (GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3) completed the points.
And so the curtain falls in Qatar for 2023, after a weekend of two halves for the title contenders and a little chapter of awesome history made for Di Giannantonio. Now, it’s truly all or nothing in Valencia. Bagnaia leads by 21 points. 37 more are on the table… and the gloves will be off.
Join us for the Grand Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana next weekend – there will be fireworks!
|1||Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™)|
|2||Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team)||+2.734|
|3||Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team)||+4.408|
|4||Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing)||+4.488|
|5||Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)||+7.246|
|6||Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™)||+7.620|
|7||Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™)||+7.828|
|8||Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team)||+8.239|
|9||Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)||+11.509|
|10||Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing)||+14.819|