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‘I lost my mindset’ – Mugello tragedy’s impact on Bagnaia

by Simon Patterson
8 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Given just how close the 2021 MotoGP title race was, it’s hard to imagine that the whole balance of the title was decided in a single minute.

But when you hear eventual runner-up Pecco Bagnaia recount the events of Sunday at Mugello last June, it’s entirely possible that’s exactly what happened.

On the Saturday of the Italian Grand Prix weekend during Moto3 qualifying, Swiss rider Jason Dupasquier fell from his bike and was struck by other riders following closely behind.

Rushed to hospital in Florence with severe head trauma, he tragically passed away the following morning, with an announcement being made just before the start of race action.


Paying tribute to the 19-year-old, the MotoGP grid lined up before the start of their race for a minute’s silence – an event that while held with the best of intentions was questioned by some at the time because of the emotional toll it could have had upon a grid of riders preparing to go racing only minutes later.

And, according to Bagnaia in a surprisingly frank exclusive interview with The Race, it may well have been the moment the entire title race was decided.

He led off the line but fell on the opening lap of the race, ending a run of form that was just coming to a head. It’s a mark of the man that he’s willing to admit where things went so off track for him.

“The reason was the crash and the passing away of Dupasquier,” Bagnaia tells The Race when asked to pinpoint the reason for the slump that made such a difference in the title fight.

“The biggest problem was that they said to us before our race that he had passed away.

“The minute of silence before our race wasn’t easy. For me that was the biggest problem. When I heard that he was dead, I started to think about the race – and I was more or less prepared.

“But then the moment’s silence on the grid was too much of a shock for me. I was thinking about not racing, but knowing that you have to race.


“I started well, I was first, and maybe if I had just finished that lap, I would have been OK.

“But I didn’t finish it, because I wasn’t concentrated. You need more time in this situation to be concentrated.”

Going into that Mugello weekend, Bagnaia was just one point behind leader and eventual champion Fabio Quartararo. He still hadn’t won in MotoGP at that point, but he’d taken three podiums from 2021’s first five races.

It took two months and six races before Bagnaia got back on the podium again in the Austrian Grand Prix. By then, Quartararo was 47 points clear.


But the final part of 2021 was remarkable for Bagnaia, with four wins from the final six races. He’s going into 2022 not just much more comfortable with his position in the championship, but confident in himself that he’s now developed into a genuine title contender.

“I felt incredible with the team,” he explains of the rest of his first season as a factory Ducati rider.

“I started to be able to say the correct thing every time, and this was very important to be able to improve our bike.

“The start was OK, but after the Mugello crash I lost my mindset a bit. The best situation was to not race in Mugello, for me, but for sure in this situation you have to race.


“I wasn’t concentrated, and afterwards I lost two or three races to be ready again with my mindset.

“In the summer break I started to work more, to be more ready, and I think we did a good job.

“Now we have to start again, but in this moment the situation is OK.”

Things perhaps haven’t quite started as strongly as he’d have hoped for in testing, with none of the riders on Ducati’s 2022-spec Desmosedici really setting the world alight as they worked hard to develop a bike that while visually very similar is quite different from the ultra-refined machine of the final races of 2021.

Mar 02 : A vulnerable champion? MotoGP 2022 season preview

But, despite that, both as a better rider and on a bike that he believes has more potential than the old one – even if they haven’t found it yet – the 25-year-old manages to sound confident without being cocky.

“We are more ready,” Bagnaia insists. “The wins of last year have helped me a lot to improve and to learn a lot more things.

“I was missing the win, but when I achieved it everything was easier because it gave me more consideration of myself.

“You know you can win, and I started working differently. Everything was better and I was always competitive.

“We just had to be more smart and more relaxed. When you know you can reach this kind of result you can be more relaxed.

“This year, it’s a different year. It’s the first time in two years that the manufacturers can change the bikes, and we arrive with a different bike.

“The GP21 was very competitive because it was a two-year-old bike and we improved it a lot. It was perfect in the last part of last season.

“But now we start again with a new adventure, and already in Malaysia the level was very high.

“[Mandalika] could be good for us, because it’s more technical and when you look at this layout of track, three or four years ago the first feeling would be that this is not a Ducati track. But I think that now it is perfect.”


Despite considerable pre-season hype so far, Bagnaia insists that he is not the championship favourite – instead remaining completely adamant that status remains firmly on the shoulders of Quartararo.

“I don’t know really why, because Quartararo won the championship last year!” laughs Bagnaia when asked about his position as title favourite.

“I’m happy that it’s like this, but I’m not focused on it. I’m just focusing on developing our bike, improving our bike, and making sure that our bike will be ready in Qatar.

“We still have a lot of work to do, and in Malaysia we did an incredible step in two days. The bike was already at the level of last year’s bike, but we have to do more. [Mandalika] will be a good exam for our bike.”

While there might be rivalry between Bagnaia and Quartararo, one thing is absolutely certain: it’s matched with an equal level of respect between the two after a ferocious year fighting against each other on the way up the ladder.

“He is very precise, he is very fast,” says Bagnaia of Quartararo.

“Last year, we fought a bit in Assen, and it was nice. In Misano it was a different type of fight. I was in front and he was recovering to me, and this was the most difficult race.

“In this moment you have to be very concentrated to find the result, and he was taking three or four tenths per lap. It’s very easy to make a mistake in that situation.

“But one of the greatest fights with him was in Japan [in Moto2 in 2018].


“We started and we opened an incredible gap compared to third and fourth. We were the only two riders riding in the 1m51s and everyone else was in 1m52.5s laps. I was just trying to follow him, and this race was incredible. I remember everything about it.

“I didn’t win – I won it afterwards, because he had a problem with the tyre pressure [and was disqualified], but I always recognised that that win was for Fabio, not me.

“It was the best race because we demonstrated our level. It was very high in that moment. I think that we took eight seconds to third and 12 seconds to fourth, which is something incredible in Moto2.”

Feb 23 : Your MotoGP 2022 questions answered

But that’s the past – and it’s the future that starts this weekend, when the new season kicks off in Qatar.

With the chance upon him to make amends for last year’s defeat when the lights go out in Qatar on Sunday, it’s a brave new world – one in which Bagnaia admits that he doesn’t know yet where he stands.

“I think it’s difficult to say,” he admits when asked who starts the season in the best shape, “because we all have new bikes, different bikes.

“Maybe less for Honda and Ducati, but also KTM and Suzuki.

“[Enea] Bastianini will be fast with the bike of last year for sure, because the bike of last year is incredible. This year’s bike still needs work, although we will arrive in Qatar.

“Then, Fabio because he is the winner of last year. He will be very competitive and I know that he is one of the ones who wants to win more.

“Then [Marc] Marquez for sure will be very competitive, and I think the fight for the championship will be Marquez and Fabio, and I would like to be one of them too. [Joan] Mir too, if everything is perfect for him.”

And what for his own chances? Well, as he’s already said, Bagnaia believes that he starts the season in the best possible shape now – and if the past is anything to go by, his opposition should be worried.


“I think that my situation now,” he says, “is more or less the one of Fabio after 2020. It’s different, because he was winning at the start then losing points, and me the reverse.

“But the result is that we lost the same. I finished second and he didn’t, but we both lost a championship. I’m more prepared now to fight.

“I’ve already won a championship, in Moto2, but it’s a totally different thing in MotoGP. You have to be more in front always, because in Moto2 when I started in the second or third row I could still be in the front. Now in MotoGP, if you don’t start in the first two rows the race becomes very difficult.

“I’m more prepared to always be competitive, and the wins of last year gave me more confidence in myself and also more confidence in my bike.

“So I feel that I’ve learned a lot compared to the start of last season.”

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