Rossi: It's been a long time since the Ducati's been as good

Francesco Bagnaia has elevated his game to another level in 2021 and it's caught the eye of the legendary Italian

There’s a long list of great names that have ridden Ducati’s Desmosedici through the years. The likes of Andrea Dovizioso, currently of Petronas Yamaha SRT, Casey Stoner, their sole Championship winning rider, Loris Capirossi, Troy Bayliss, Sete Gibernau and Nicky Hayden have all donned the famous Ducati red through the years, each and every one providing fans with thrilling moments that will live on forever in MotoGP™ lore.

And now, according to Valentino Rossi (Petronas Yamaha SRT), who himself had a spell with the Bologna bullets, there’s a new name to add to that impressive list, as his protégé Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) performances this season have caught the legendary Italian’s eye.

“Pecco is impressive. The Americas GP was his third pole position in a row with a stunning lap. He’s in great, great shape. It’s great fun to look at him ride, it’s a great pleasure because he rides the Ducati at the top. It’s a long, long time since I've seen a Ducati like this. So, I’m very happy for Pecco.”

In the midst of a Championship battle and having praise heaped upon him by his mentor, it could be forgiven if Bagnaia was to start believing the hype, however, perhaps a reflection of what has brought him to the top level of the sport, the Italian refused to get carried away and remained level-headed and grounded when posed with a question about Rossi’s comments, recalling the more difficult times as he worked his way up through the different grades.

“When I started with Ducati, I was always crashing. My feeling was never very good. I was trying to push, but my riding style was not adapting so well to the Ducati because in Moto2™ I was always with a lot of corner speed. In Moto2™, you can’t brake so hard because the rear is sliding always. So, when I arrived in MotoGP™, in the first test I was fast but just because I was doing time attack. It’s something that I learned after because in MotoGP™, the top riders never do time attack, but maybe the first test of the season.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Lenovo Team, Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas

Indeed, the learning process never stopped for Bagnaia, with the number 63 just now reaping the rewards of his and Ducati’s hard work, while crediting a change in approach with the uptake in form and igniting his title charge late in the season.  

“From Qatar, we started to work with used tyres, I was in trouble and I was not feeling good. Until this year, I was always without a great feeling. Last year I did some good races, I think two good races or three, but this year I think I changed a bit my mentality on the bike. I feel that I know very well this bike and I adapt very well on the braking, because now in the braking I can stop the bike very good and I feel great. Also, I adapt the setting of my Ducati to my riding style for the corner speed. Our bike is not so fast in the middle of the corner, but this year we did a good job and now the bike is sweeter for that.”

It may just be too large a challenge for him the land the 2021 title with just three races remaining, but having removed the monkey off his back and earned a maiden premier class win in Aragon, which has been followed up with another victory and podium, Pecco will be setting his sights on glory in 2022 once the current season comes to a close.

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