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Bagnaia “not considering” Qatar GP as MotoGP title match point

MotoGP championship leader Francesco Bagnaia says he is “not considering” this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix as his first match point in the 2023 title battle.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing

Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

This weekend’s Qatar GP marks the penultimate round of the 2023 season, and offers Bagnaia his first opportunity to win a second MotoGP crown.

After beating Pramac’s Jorge Martin to third in last week’s Malaysian GP, Bagnaia comes to the Losail circuit 14 points clear and can win the championship if he scores 23 points more than his rival.

This has happened only once this season, at the season opening Portuguese GP when Bagnaia outscored Martin by 28 points with a sprint/grand prix double.

Asked on Thursday in Qatar if he was thinking about wrapping up the championship this weekend, Bagnaia says scoring 23 points more than Martin is “too much” for a single weekend.

“I’m not considering this weekend like a match point, honestly.

“I have to gain 23 points and that’s too much in a single weekend. Jorge is doing a really great job and it will be more important to think session by session, to work like the past weekend in Sepang and try to be competitive.

“We know perfectly the tarmac has been resurfaced and could be a very great question for the tyres. I think it could be very demanding for the tyres because it’s new.

“Let’s see. It’s a track that I like, we have always been competitive here apart from last year, which was in the wrong moment of the season.

“But the lap record is still mine and I think our bike suits very well to this track.”

World champion Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Dorna

World champion Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Asked if simply beating Martin was the main goal, Bagnaia added: “Yeah, maybe, it could be better because right now 14 points with the championship we are living is nothing.

“37 points every weekend is a lot, and you can gain or you can lose a lot of points.

“So, it will be important to be calm, work well and try to do the maximum. We saw last weekend he gained three points in Saturday and lost four on Sunday.

“So, it’s very balanced and I think it will be another head-to-head.”

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Bagnaia lost his “joker” tyre pressure rule warning last weekend in Malaysia, after he was hit with an official warning for riding underneath the minimum limit for more than 50% of the grand prix.

Martin already got this warning for a first offence in Thailand, meaning the next time either breaks the rule they will be awarded with a three-second penalty.

While this has put the title fight into a precarious situation, Bagnaia isn’t concerned as he has raced countless times with his front tyre pressure high.

“Honestly, I did many, many, many races this year with a high pressure front and normally I feel it is high but it’s not changing too much the performance of my lap times.

“So, I’m already used to being 0.2, 0.3 bar higher [than the minimum front pressure]. I’m not happy, it’s clear, about this rule and we’ve spoken about it and I’m not happy, and I’m still not happy because I think it’s not helping anything.

“But in any case, I [don’t] think anyone in our team will take a gamble to risk to race close to the limit because three seconds can make a big difference in terms of results.

“Or you push and you can gain three seconds, but it’s very difficult. Or you can lose like four, five positions.”

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