until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Marquez’s accidental mind game win can be lesson for Bagnaia

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia may have inarguably enjoyed the best opening day of racing at Mugello with a pole position and sprint race win – but it’s hard to argue that the first win of the day went to Marc Marquez before the pair had even really turned a wheel in anger.

Exiting pit lane as Bagnaia set out to set his first time attack of qualifying, Marquez immediately came into the path of Bagnaia, leading to Bagnaia gesticulating furiously as he became just the latest person whom the Repsol Honda rider decided to follow during qualifying – something that has become a favoured tactic of his of late.

Yet Marquez did nothing at all wrong during the incident to warrant the penalty that some people seemed to believe he deserved – this wasn’t a repeat case of the earlier sanction-hit Moto3 session that saw a handful of frontrunners get sent to the back of the grid for slowing down to wait for a tow from others.

Instead it seemed that Marquez simply timed his pit exit to perfection, locking himself in behind Bagnaia at an opportune moment without having to slow down or get in anyone’s way, a move that he’s learned to perfect in recent years.

It’s also a strategy that ultimately paid off for him, of course, as a frustrated Bagnaia was eventually forced to stop his remonstrating and go on the attack for pole position, with Marquez (slotted in handily behind him) jumping up the rankings to second place on the grid for this weekend’s races – something he says was only possible because of the Italian’s irate reaction.

“I don’t understand how I did it, but I will do it again in the future,” laughed a wholly unrepentant Marquez afterwards, “because it’s one of my strengths. I don’t understand how I can do that, but I don’t want to understand it either, I just want to keep it going.


“This time in qualifying though, I wasn’t looking for Pecco – I was looking for Bezzecchi but he went out from the box, he was fast, and we were a bit slow there. I said I would do the lap alone, but he [Bagnaia] was coming in a hot lap.

“In Turn 1 I decided to go wide because if he was coming on a hot lap it would be impossible to follow him. You are coming from the box, the tyres are new – but when he stopped at my side and started to shake the hands, I was saying thank you! Like this, I had the chance to follow him and that’s what I did!”

And therein lies the key to the victory that Marquez managed today, even if it wasn’t enough to finish on pole: he cracked the psychological armour of the reigning world champion with his mind games, got under his skin, and, as a result, will start Sunday’s main race from an excellent position on the front row.

Perhaps it’s not exactly the reaction that he set out to obtain, but there’s no arguing that it was a very successful one – one that in effect handed him the golden ticket that he needed to turn around his qualifying session, thanks only to Bagnaia’s inability to keep his calm when faced with what’s now standard Marc Marquez qualifying tactics.


Psychological warfare has always been a part of motorcycle racing: in fact, before Marquez came along the undisputed master of it was Bagnaia’s own mentor Valentino Rossi, who preferred to use his comments to the media rather than his on-track actions to elicit a response – but was no less successful as a result.

Marquez seems to be especially good, though, at utilising the track to ensure maximum mental impact: take, for example, the infamous Sepang 2015 incident that drove Rossi himself to lose his cool.

And while Bagnaia might ultimately have been the winner come Saturday afternoon, it’s fair to say that Marquez got the measure of him – and perhaps even learned something that might be of use further down the line, unless Bagnaia in turn learns to better control his own emotions on the bike.

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