Bagnaia’s race prep “better than the others”

MotoGP championship leader Francesco Bagnaia is going into Q1 at Phillip Island. Image: Ross Gibb Photography

MotoGP championship leader Francesco Bagnaia is going into Q1 at Phillip Island. Image: Ross Gibb Photography

MotoGP championship leader Francesco Bagnaia is relatively bullish about his prospects in today’s Grand Prix at Phillip Island despite being forced into Qualifying 1 again.

The Ducati Team rider was only 11th-fastest in Practice and hence, for the second weekend in a row, he is going into the first stanza of qualifying, later this morning.

Bagnaia remains puzzled by repeated slow starts to events, but believes he took a better approach than his rivals did in Friday practice at the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Whereas pace-setting KTM duo Brad Binder and Jack Miller spent the whole of Practice on soft rear Michelin tyres, Bagnaia was on mediums for his first three runs.

It is the medium which is overwhelmingly considered the best rear tyre compound for the Grand Prix race, which has been moved forward to this afternoon due to forecasts of dangerously high winds tomorrow.

Furthermore, Bagnaia is still in contention for pole position, at least in theory, and even if he still qualifies poorly, most are tipping this afternoon’s 27-lap encounter to be a pack race similar to last year’s thriller.

“The thing is, it’s strange that we move from a circuit to another circuit, with the same setting – more or less – and, for me, it’s not working, every time,” admitted the Italian.

“It’s not the first time; in Mandalika [a week ago], it wasn’t the first time.

“It’s more or less all the season that we arrive Friday, we struggle a lot; Saturday is better; and Sunday then we are the fastest.

“So, in that case we have a day less for being the fastest but it’s true also that in this track, it’s more difficult to have a clear advantage.

“Looking to the pace we had [in Free Practice 1], looking to the pace I had [in Practice], we’re one of the most competitive in terms of lap times, in terms of consistency with the tyres.

“We use the medium, more or less all the others used the soft, so for me, our work was better than the others [in Practice].”

Bagnaia did concede, though, that he struggled in fact corners in time attack mode with the soft Michelin rear.

“We started the session with the medium and my feeling was great,” recalled the 2022 champion.

“I was feeling good, the pace was one of the best with this spec.

“But as soon as we put the soft rear on for the time attack, I started having problems.

“I’m struggling a lot on the acceleration in the entrance of fast corners,” he added.

“My bike is too aggressive; very nervous.

“For example, from the last corner to the finish line, I’m losing two tenths from [title rival Jorge] Martin and this is unbelievable.

“I am missing traction on all the track, so this was more or less the issue.

“But, like Mandalika, the feeling with the bike is not that bad, so this is strange.”

MotoGP Free Practice 2 starts at 10:10 local time/AEDT, followed immediately by Qualifying 1 and Qualifying 2.

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