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Marquez vs Bagnaia - Who looks most ominous after epic showdown?

5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Was defeating Marc Marquez for the Spanish Grand Prix win a crucial psychological victory for reigning MotoGP champion Pecco Bagnaia that proved he is still Ducati’s top dog and best-placed to go on and take another title?

Or was the fact Marquez came so close to beating him on a year-old satellite bike and in only his fourth race weekend on a Ducati a sign of much more to come and evidence he’s going to topple Bagnaia?

Neither of them actually leads the championship right now - that’s still Jorge Martin despite his crash from first place at Jerez.

But which of Bagnaia and Marquez has most to be pleased about after their epic battle?

Here are our MotoGP panel’s thoughts.

Make no mistake - Marquez is in the mix

Valentin Khorounzhiy

Marc Marquez

Marc Marquez cut a deliriously delighted figure on the Spanish Grand Prix podium - check out those moves! - and he deserves it given a first grand prix podium at Gresini Ducati was both a specific milestone he had chased and a net positive for his championship position.

But the speed at Jerez was there for him and his increasingly trusty GP23 to bring home all 37 points - and that's not really something that you could've said earlier this year.

At the Circuit of the Americas, where you would normally expect a Marquez walkover, he was definitely not the quickest rider (hello, Maverick Vinales) and there was an argument that he maybe wasn't even the quickest Ducati, at least relative to the GP24s whose pace ebbed and flowed.

Maybe this would've been the case on a normal Jerez weekend, too. After all, Bagnaia was the one who rewrote the lap record on Friday. But mixed conditions had put Marquez in a position to start both races from the front, and in both cases he had the pace to capitalise.

It's one thing that he was the fastest rider in the sprint, in the sketchy conditions that ultimately did catch Marquez out. It's another that he looked fastest in the much more straightforward race, only let down by a potentially overly-tentative (but maybe rightly so) initial few laps, coloured by the memories of both his own Saturday crash and the falls he had seen in the Moto2 race.

What is important is that Marquez was already very quick from session one. As he himself put it, he has now made enough of a step forward as a Ducati rider to where he can finally start tailoring his GP23 to himself rather than tailoring himself to the GP23. Which is how he flashed race win-level pace in first Friday practice already, and seemed to confirm it at every step of the weekend.

We've seen Marquez be magic at Jerez before - he was going to absolutely obliterate the field in the 2020 opener before his initial mistake and subsequent career-altering crash - but it's not necessarily a 'calling card' track for him.

This weekend, it looked like one. And it brought him closer to the championship lead.

This is not a Martin vs Bagnaia rematch. Right now, Marquez has to be in that picture, too.

Bagnaia still has something Marquez lacks

Simon Patterson

Pecco Bagnaia

Marquez might have started Sunday’s race (and, in fact Saturday’s sprint) looking like the guy who had the best pace - but that’s not the expectation he came into the weekend with, as he continues to adapt to the Ducati.

Bagnaia, on the other hand, is carrying a heavy weight: he’s the reigning world champion, riding the best bike on the grid, and so far this year has been rather conclusively beaten by a guy on the same machine in satellite colours. Pressure has been on him to improve - and boy did he ever do that at Jerez.

It looks like that improvement has come by fixing the major problem that has so far plagued him this season: a chatter issue brought on by Michelin’s new and improved construction of tyre compound.

Now that’s finally under control, Bagnaia is theoretically back where he ended the 2023 season: on a machine that’s working exactly the way he wants it to. And if we’ve learned anything about the two-time world champion in the past years, it’s that when his bike is working well, it’s very hard to beat him.

He leaves Jerez with both momentum and confidence, and that’s a very dangerous combination given that one of his rivals was conclusively beaten by him on Sunday while the other watched on from the gravel trap.

Bagnaia still has the edge - but he’s going to need it

Matt Beer

Pecco Bagnaia Marc Marquez Jerez MotoGP 2024

Outbraking both Martin and Marco Bezzecchi in one implausible down-the-outside move and defeating Marc Marquez in a ferocious elbow-to-elbow victory battle on Marquez’s home ground. Two things a lot of MotoGP riders aren’t going to manage to do in their whole career. Bagnaia did both in the same hugely significant afternoon.

Throughout the victory fight it felt like Bagnaia was the one who had a tiny margin in hand, while Marquez was having to overreach. Bagnaia looked like he could see the moves coming and knew how he’d respond. That late fastest lap just when he needed to break Marquez’s challenge was sublime.

His very first MotoGP win - not even three years ago - came in a similarly fierce fight with Marquez at Aragon that proved Bagnaia’s racecraft credentials beyond any doubt and turbocharged his subsequent rise to multiple champion status. Jerez 2024 felt just as significant.

And yet… he’s the one on the top-spec works bike. The one who’s spent his whole MotoGP career on Ducatis and grown up with the factory’s development direction. Marquez is still very early in his Ducati learning. And Bagnaia’s having to work this hard to fend Marquez off already.

Bagnaia rode like a MotoGP great at Jerez. But he now knows he can’t afford to do anything less because there’s another one of those who’s going to give him more and more hassle over the months ahead.

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