Bastianini: Bagnaia wants Miller as team-mate to avoid a ‘problem’

Enea Bastianini heads Jack Miller. Picture:

Enea Bastianini has asserted that Francesco Bagnaia wants Jack Miller to stay at the Ducati Lenovo Team to avoid the “problem” of a more competitive team-mate.

If form alone is the sole determinant of who gets the as yet unfilled seat alongside Bagnaia for the 2023 MotoGP season, then Bastianini has the inside running.

The second-year premier class rider has been victorious three times this season, whereas no one else has won more than once, and even Miller said after finishing runner-up to him in Le Mans that it “makes sense” if the Italian were to take his ride.

It should be noted that, as a Gresini Racing rider, Bastianini is on the GP21-model Desmosedici which is arguably a better motorcycle than its GP22 successor, even a third of the way into the 2022 campaign.

However, the other of the three contenders for the second factory ride, Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, has chucked his GP22 down the road at alarming regularity this year.

Both Martin and Bagnaia crashed out of the just-completed French Grand Prix, the latter in pursuit of Bastianini having just ceded the lead to him with an earlier mistake on the same lap.

On a weekend when Miller was linked in Italian media to a move to KTM, Bastianini was asked if he was forcing Ducati to promote him to its works team.

‘Bestia’ responded, “I don’t know. I’m not the Ducati boss.

“But I think my situation is better in respect to the other Ducati riders.

“Pecco yesterday said he’d prefer to stay with Jack [as team-mate]. And I think his decision… I don’t know if Ducati wants to listen to him.

“But, also in the case of staying at Gresini or other [teams] with a factory package I can be fast.”

The 24-year-old then gave a rather interesting response when asked for a theory about Bagnaia’s preference.

“I think he prefers Miller because he is the leader of Ducati and he knows the potential of me, and also I think of Martin,” he suggested.

“It can be a problem for him.”

When that was put to Bagnaia, he insisted his position is due to his relationship with Miller, his only team-mate to date in MotoGP.

Francesco Bagnaia crashes out of the French Grand Prix. Picture:

“Jack is my team-mate from 2019 and I know him very well,” said the 25-year-old.

“So, it’s normal that if you had to choose a mate to share your box with, it’s the man you have more conversations with, spend more time with.

“So, Jack is my first choice because he is a friend, he is a good team-mate, I like to work with him.

“But it’s something that the team has to choose. If it will be Enea, if it will be Martin, for me, it will be the same story. I’ve always had a good relationship with all my team-mates.

“Enea, I think, deserves the place because, in Austin he was so competitive and today he won the race.”

Bagnaia’s position, to be fair, is not unreasonably inconsistent with comments he made in pre-season.

Upon his contract renewal being announced in February, the Italian said he had a “wonderful relationship” with Miller, and that the Queenslander “deserves” to retain his ride.

Ironically, Bagnaia’s crash means Miller is back ahead of him in the riders’ championship, and both are well clear of Martin.

Bastianini is third on 94 points, Miller fifth on 62, Pramac’s Johann Zarco (Desmosedici GP22) sixth on 62, Bagnaia seventh on 56, and Martin 15th on 28.

For reference, the other GP22 rider in the field, Mooney VR46 Racing Team’s Luca Marini, sits 16th on 21 points.

Bagnaia and Bastianini will race on home soil when Round 8 takes place at Mugello on May 27-29.

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