Fast MotoGP rookies making Miller ‘nervous’

Jorge Martín (left) and Jack Miller at the season-ending Valencian Grand Prix. Picture: Red Bull Content Pool

Factory Ducati rider Jack Miller says the rate of improvement from the current crop of up-and-coming MotoGP riders makes him nervous.

Heading into his eighth season as a full-timer in the premier class, Miller has been touted as a championship contender in 2022.

This year he was tipped to be Ducati’s lead rider, but was ultimately outperformed by team-mate Francesco Bagnaia on the Desmosedici GP21.

A handful of young riders made waves in 2021, including Jorge Martín.

Riding for the Ducati satellite outfit Pramac Racing, the Spaniard finished on the podium in just his second MotoGP race in Qatar.

An accident in Portugal would rule him out for that round and the following events in Spain, France, and Italy. However, just four races after his return, Martín claimed his first MotoGP win.

Martín would back up his Styrian Grand Prix win a week later with third at the same circuit before rounding out the season at the Valencian Grand Prix with second.

Despite missing four grands prix, Martín finished the season in ninth.

Asked about Martín’s maiden season in the premier class, Miller praised the 23-year-old and noted the form of other young guns.

“I think this bike ain’t easy, by any stretch of the imagination – it’s got its characters and everything like that,” Miller said of the Ducati.

“All the rookies make me nervous, really, because they just keep getting faster and faster and faster.

“[Bagnaia] as a rookie, came in, topped the test in Malaysia. He says ‘I took time’, but that’s bullshit because he didn’t.

“And they just keep getting faster and faster. Jorge [Martín] did a fantastic job, missed a few races this year but has shown he’s come in with the professionalism that maybe I was missing when I came in for sure.

“He’s really stepped up to the plate in that department and has done a fantastic job with his race craft. It’s a lot of things that took me a very long time to learn and he’s a very complete rider.”

Miller also noted the form of Italian Enea Bastianini, who on an older Desmosedici GP19 was twice a podium finisher in his debut season for Esponsorama Racing.

“It makes me nervous, and Bastianini as well,” said Miller.

“When you get passed by a year-old bike, I know how [Andrea] Dovizioso and [Danilo] Petrucci must have felt when I did it to them and it ain’t a nice feeling that’s for certain.

“But it makes me more and more keen to improve myself because it’s amazing to see how well they’re doing at such a young age and how well they’re going to keep doing.”

Bagnaia, who was runner up to Frenchman Fabio Quartararo, said he was impressed by Martín given the difficulty of the Desmosedici GP21.

“I think he has done a good job this year – more than good,” said the Italian.

“Because starting as a rookie and already at the second race; a pole and a podium, winning in his first year in Austria, losing a lot of races with his incident in Portimao, I think he has done a really great season. So, I think he must be happy for what he did.

“For sure, our bike is not the easiest one for a rookie, but from the start, he was learning very quickly the things I didn’t [as a rookie].

“This was the first year I felt so great with this bike. Ok, also now our bike is more competitive, but it was also competitive last year and sometimes I was fast, but most of the time I was behind.

“So, he was very competitive, but I think also Bastianini did an enormous job as a rookie.”

Miller and Bagnaia will once again lead Ducati’s efforts in the MotoGP World Championship in 2022.

Bastianini joins Gresini Racing next year with Fabio Di Giannantonio while Martín will ride for Pramac Racing alongside Frenchman Johann Zarco.

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