until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Is Bezzecchi's brave MotoGP 2024 gamble already failing?

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Hindsight is a tempting mistress, and the start of the 2024 MotoGP season has so far provided no shortage of temptation to declare the crucial decision Marco Bezzecchi had made ahead of 2024 was a needless, campaign-compromising own goal.

But that's not fair, and I'd argue it won't be fair regardless of how the rest of his 2024 plays out.

Bezzecchi's decision to pass up a factory Ducati contract and a works-spec bike at Pramac in favour of the familiar confines of his mentor Valentino Rossi's VR46 team (and a year-old bike) was controversial and much-scrutinised at the time, but it wasn't insane.

He had seen first-hand how potent a year-old Ducati could be in his hands and the hands of his VR46 crew headed up by Matteo Flamigni. He would've followed Bezzecchi to Pramac but it's not like he could fully transpose the rest of the team.

Bezzecchi had already seen enough MotoGP, too, to know that a more polished, already-developed bike is far from the worst thing to begin the season on.

And he would have been clear that the end goal would be a 2025 factory seat anyway - so why not maximise familiar surroundings and avoid any adaptation-requiring teething problems that could derail his momentum at the exact time that the 2025 deals were being hashed out?

There's logic in that. It wasn't a mistake a priori - it was an informed gamble, as most decisions of this nature are.

But that's not to say there isn't a problem. That problem isn't the decision to roll the dice - but the fact that for now the dice have turned up snake eyes.

A bad fit?

Bezzecchi has now had three tests and one full MotoGP round with the 2023 Ducati Desmosedici, utilised so ably last year by Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin.

It is, unmistakably, a good bike, and Bezzecchi has never disputed that - but he noticed already at Valencia in November that something wasn't matching.

With a different engine character to the Desmosedici GP22 he had previously, Bezzecchi was struggling to get the bike stopped in that later phase of braking and get it turned.

He was particularly at sea at Sepang but thought he had righted the ship towards the end of the Qatar pre-season test, only for the season opener at the same Lusail venue to come as a rude awakening.

Engine braking has come up as a culprit - and this is where, for all the success the GP23 had last year, Bezzecchi instead provided a reminder of another rider who never fully clicked with it, 2022 standout Enea Bastianini.

And Bezzecchi noticed it, too.

"I read a lot the comments that he was saying last year," he said of Bastianini. "And I found a lot myself inside those comments.

"So I hope I can adjust everything a little bit early compared to Bastianini."

Bastianini is in better shape now, thanks to the fact he's healed after an injury-ravaged 2023 - but also the fact that he has clicked much more with the GP24. Which, of course, is the very same bike Bezzecchi passed up.

Qatar doldrums

The odd man out in the eight-rider Ducati camp in Qatar was Franco Morbidelli, but that was to be expected. Bezzecchi's fellow VR46 Academy member was coming in effectively blind after skipping the entire pre-season through injury.

So if you exclude Morbidelli, it's Bezzecchi who becomes the big outlier.

Pre-qualifying practice (Bezzecchi as reference point)

A Marquez -0.823s
Martin -0.813s
Di Giannantonio -0.714s
Bagnaia -0.693s
Bastianini -0.477s
M Marquez -0.462s

In the sole qualifying-esque session that all the Ducatis shared the track in, Bezzecchi was badly outmatched by his Desmosedici peers despite getting a tow from Bagnaia on his best lap.

His deficit was pretty uniform across the four sectors - and he then posted very similar sector times en route to a wholly unsurprising Q1 exit in 15th.

His Saturday was effectively a total write-off from there, but Sunday morning brought second place in the daytime warm-up - a brief glimpse of a step, like in the test.

And like after the test, it was largely overwritten by what came next. In the 21-lap grand prix Bezzecchi struggled with front locking, which made him slower into the corners. That in turn made his pace very variable but also wore out the rear tyre through earlier accelerations, forcing him onto the most conservative engine map from halfway on.

"We found some interesting things," he insisted, "but also we saw that it's really tough, when a weekend starts in a difficult way, to improve."

No GP24 envy

At least in public, there is definitely no pining for a GP24 from Bezzecchi.

His GP23 looks like it may be a relatively diminished package already, as the teething troubles occasionally present in newer Ducatis haven't really materialised on the 2024 version, but his peers on the 2023 spec were unmistakably competitive still.

"I'm looking of course at the top riders [on the GP24s] - but also the Marquez brothers, and also my team-mate [Fabio Di Giannantonio]. They have my same spec, and they are able to ride a bit faster than me," Bezzecchi acknowledged.

He then corrected himself: "Well, 'a bit' - quite [a bit] faster than me. Through all the weekend, through time attacks, through race pace.

"So, I'm trying to focus on them, I'm trying to look at the data, understand why I'm missing some speed.

"The problem is that I'm not able to do at the moment what they are doing. I have no confidence on the front to release the breaks. The bike is not turning. Because of this I lose corner speed. I open the throttle late.

"Or I go inside the corner too slow, because if not the bike is not turning, I open the throttle very early, I finish the tyre.

"I'm struggling a little bit. But I'm also working a lot, I will arrive."

There's no question there - Bezzecchi will have his moments in 2024. Bastianini did in 2023, after all, and he essentially spent half of that season in various hospitals.

But if the idea for continuity in 2024 was at least partly to put your best foot forward in 2025, so far that gambit is failing - badly.

And even if Bezzecchi's Pramac snub wasn't a needless error, there's every chance that it will go down as an error - which is ultimately the more important part of the question.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks