until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Bagnaia loses Qatar GP but gets huge MotoGP title boost

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Pecco Bagnaia took a massive step towards a second successive MotoGP riders' title - despite losing the Qatar Grand Prix victory battle to an inspired Fabio Di Giannantonio.

Di Giannantonio, who is out of a MotoGP ride for 2024 (being replaced by Marc Marquez at Gresini and with no alternative seats seemingly available), reeled in and overtook the defending champion to win by 2.7 seconds.

However, second place was as pleasing for Bagnaia as it ever could've been - as a disastrous race for main championship rival Jorge Martin leaves the gap between them at a huge 21 points coming into the Valencia season finale, where 37 will be available.

Having overtaken Bagnaia off the line in the sprint on Saturday - and then nudged him wide at Turn 1 - Martin had a dreadful start this time, his getaway more akin to his numerous worryingly sketchy practice starts during the weekend.

It dropped him to eighth place, but worse for him was that Bagnaia went the other way, taking the lead off his fellow Valentino Rossi protege Luca Marini on the run to Turn 1.

The reigning champion's lightning getaway set him up for a long stint in the lead. Marini's time in second place, meanwhile, would prove relatively shortlived - though briefly overtaken by Gresini team-mate Alex Marquez on the second tour, Di Giannantonio soon returned the favour and, on lap five, picked off Marini at Turn 6.

It was a five-rider lead group at that point, and Martin wasn't in it. Though a Johann Zarco error promoted him to seventh and he then worked his way past Marc Marquez, the Honda rider's time spent in sixth place created a significant gap to the top five.

But even once Martin found himself into clean air, his charge back towards the leaders was aborted immediately as his pace suddenly cratered.

By the halfway point of the race, it became increasingly clear that only Di Giannantonio had the pace to run with Bagnaia out front. Brad Binder had overtaken Alex Marquez with a Turn 1 divebomb and briefly threatened to run with the leaders but soon had to let them go.

As the grand prix approached its climax, Di Giannantonio hounded Bagnaia relentlessly. In an apparent reference to an old Ducati team order to Jorge Lorenzo - though not an actual team order this time but rather just a race distance heads up from the Gresini team - he received a 'Mapping 8' message on his dashboard.

Shortly thereafter, on lap 19 of 22, Di Giannantonio lined up Bagnaia at Turn 12 and sent it down the inside, managing to cover off the reigning champion at Turn 13.

And when Bagnaia sought to retaliate with the aid of slipstream on the main straight, he instead had to check up and put his bike straight to avoid clattering into Di Giannantonio.

He succeeded at that, but ran very deep into the Turn 1 run-off, coming out over two seconds behind Di Giannantonio.

Fortunately for Bagnaia, there had been a five-second buffer between the leading duo and third place, and so he was able to comfortably bring it home in second.

Third ultimately went to Marini, despite him dropping behind not just Di Giannantonio but also Alex Marquez and Binder early on.

The VR46 Ducati rider, who is expected to sign with the works Honda team for 2024 as Marc Marquez's replacement, stormed back through and then fought off a charging Maverick Vinales' Aprilia by 0.080s for the final podium spot.

Binder settled for fifth, with Alex Marquez, Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Enea Bastianini (Ducati) close behind them.

Vinales, Quartararo and Bastianini all made their way past Martin, who had no semblance of pace after that initial drop and spent most of the distance a sitting duck.

While Pramac team-mate Zarco did go easy on him, he was also overtaken by Jack Miller for ninth, and only narrowly fought off the final top-10 spot in a battle with Marc Marquez, who himself had a race of going backwards.

There were only two retirements from the 22-lap contest. LCR Honda stand-in Iker Lecuona pulled up on the opening lap already with an apparent technical issue, while Aprilia's Aleix Espargaro called it a day after six laps.

Espargaro was nursing a small ankle fracture after a multi-bike collision in the sprint that had also ended the season of RNF Aprilia's Miguel Oliveira.

MotoGP's tyre pressure rules introduced mid-season yielded no time penalties this time, but just a spate of warnings for first-time offenders who had run for too many laps under the minimum.

These were Alex Marquez, Miller, Zarco and Augusto Fernandez.

Race Results

PosNameCarLapsLaps LedTotal TimeFastest LapPitstopsPts
1Fabio Di GiannantonioDucati22441m43.654s1m53.312s025
2Francesco BagnaiaDucati2218+2.734s1m53.350s020
3Luca MariniDucati220+4.408s1m53.486s016
4Maverick ViñalesAprilia220+4.488s1m53.318s013
5Brad BinderKTM220+7.246s1m53.452s011
6Alex MarquezDucati220+7.620s1m53.369s010
7Fabio QuartararoYamaha220+7.828s1m53.575s09
8Enea BastianiniDucati220+8.239s1m52.978s08
9Jack MillerKTM220+11.509s1m53.718s07
10Jorge MartinDucati220+14.819s1m53.693s06
11Marc MarquezHonda220+14.964s1m53.610s05
12Johann ZarcoDucati220+17.431s1m53.540s04
13Marco BezzecchiDucati220+17.807s1m54.073s03
14Joan MirHonda220+18.673s1m53.714s02
15Augusto FernandezKTM220+21.455s1m53.734s01
16Franco MorbidelliYamaha220+21.474s1m54.220s00
17Raul FernandezAprilia220+22.142s1m54.032s00
18Pol EspargaróKTM220+27.194s1m54.253s00
19Takaaki NakagamiHonda220+27.740s1m53.706s00
Aleix EspargaróAprilia60DNF1m53.864s00
Iker LecuonaHonda00DNF0s00
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