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MotoGP Portugal GP

Bagnaia must “respect” #1 plate to defend his MotoGP crown in 2023

Reigning MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia says running the #1 plate for the 2023 season is “something to respect” in his quest to defend his crown.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Bagnaia made history in 2022 when he bounced back from a deficit of 91 points midway through the season to become Ducati’s first MotoGP world champion since 2007.

The Ducati rider has elected to swap his #63 plate for #1 for 2023, marking the first time a champion has carried that number since Casey Stoner in 2012.

Read more: Can anyone stop "changed" Bagnaia as Ducati tightens its grip on MotoGP?

Only twice in the modern MotoGP era, dating back to 2002, has a rider successfully defended their crown, with Bagnaia looking to emulate Marc Marquez (2016-2019) and his mentor Valentino Rossi (2002-2004, 2008-2009).

Looking ahead to the new campaign on the Thursday pre-event at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Bagnaia is aware of the challenge facing him to defend his title in 2023 but is confident he can do so.

“Since I remember from [watching] the races, only Marc and Vale have retained the title,” Bagnaia said when asked about carrying the #1 plate in 2023.

“So, it’s something that for sure I’m working a lot on at home and here to do.

“Having number one for sure is something to respect, something to give the maximum to continue using it.

“I’m sure all the riders here are wanting to steal this number from my bike.

“But I’m sure if we work well, everything is in a good way, we can defend the title. For sure it will not be easy, but we are there.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bagnaia has a new team-mate at the factory Ducati squad this season in the form of Enea Bastianini, who steps over from Gresini Racing having won four times in his sophomore campaign in 2022 on a 2021-spec bike.

Bastianini lagged behind Bagnaia in winter testing and admits repeating his 2022 season “can be more complicated” this time around.

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“I came from a very, very beautiful season,” Bastianini said.

“2022 has been so much more beautiful compared to my expectations.

“To do something better this year can be more complicated, but also a lot of Ducati riders are fast.

“We have seen this already during the tests, and many riders have this chance to try to win the title.

“All the MotoGP riders are so, so fast, and for the moment I don’t know who the best rival is.

“I think maybe the first rival is Pecco because the number one on the fairing is the number one of the moment, and I have to learn from him from the start to try to do something better.”

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