“A lot of noise” or real friction? Ducati’s seductive MotoGP 2023 dynamic


Even without specific context from 2022, the Ducati pairing of Enea Bastianini and Pecco Bagnaia is the most enticing, entertaining and potentially volatile combination on the 2023 MotoGP grid.

In the red corner, a breakout star who, being a near-average qualifier but a transcendent racer, looked like some sort of heir to Andrea Dovizioso – except where Dovizioso seemed more of a late-race strategic master, Bastianini through the terrifies the inevitability of his charges driven by technique and physique.

And in the other red corner, perhaps a legacy of Dovizioso’s occasional teammate Jorge Lorenzo – a rider who’s the best all-rounder Ducati has, capable of breaking lap records and winning dogfights for fun, but also in the Lorenzo -Style to control lights off when conditions are right.

    Enea Bastianini Pecco Bagnaia Ducati MotoGP

So that’s two of the top three/four/five riders on the grid, on the best team, equipped with probably the best bike. That’s juicy – and the fact that Bastianini wasn’t very submissive to Bagnaia’s title boost in certain races last year (Misano, Aragon, Sepang) should make it even more juicy, right?

Bagnaia doesn’t necessarily agree.

“Last year’s battles certainly made a lot of noise,” Bagnaia said during the Launch of Ducati’s 2023 challenger.

“We are both Italians. People are always looking dualism (Antagonism).

“So it was more from the outside that there was this pressure that pushed us to be aggressive.

“But it was not like that. We have a great relationship. We always talked.”

It’s logical for a driver to denounce a media narrative, just as it is logical for a media figure – like you really, someone who’s written and said a lot about the Bagnaia/Bastianini dynamic and certainly not always seen it as particularly positive – to go for it insist that the narrative reflects reality.

In this regard, it’s very important to point out that Bagnaia rightly feels things have been overdone – during the 2022 title run he basically never once showed public frustration towards Bastianini (unless you’re counting the time , in which he mimicked Bastianini’s stabbing at the back of Parc Ferme, which you 100% shouldn’t do because it was fun and you shouldn’t accuse people of anything).

Pecco Bagnaia Enea Bastianini MotoGP

His public stance was unshakable – he didn’t want a team order, and was happy to compete against Bastianini or whoever.

All in all, it’s on record that Ducati bosses on TV looked like nervous wrecks at races that without Bastianini, their best hope of winning the championship probably would have easily won. Also of note is that Ducati CEO Claudio Domenicali was concerned about how Bastianini drove Bagnaia at Misano.

Speaking of the record, a few months earlier Bastianini claimed that Bagnaia wanted Jack Miller to stay in the Ducati Red works because he preferred a lighter teammate.

At least that’s some tension. But that’s Bastianini – and Bagnaia seems to have no problem accepting it.

“To describe Enea, the correct answer is like he said last year, he’s a bastard – because he’s pushing like a bastard,” Bagnaia joked, referring to a social media post by his new teammate.

“No, I think he’s a smart guy, a very competitive guy. We want the same and we will do the maximum for it.

“The fight between us will be intense, but we have to be intelligent and respectful to have a good relationship.”

For his part, Bastianini was also extremely cordial, calling Bagnaia “the fastest rider in the world”.

    Enea Bastianini Michele Pirro Pecco Bagnaia Ducati MotoGP

“The big difference is Pecco is MotoGP World Champion and I’m not,” he smiled, adding later, “It’s a pleasure to fight with him next year and try to win.”

But the new signing, who sported an adorable Marco Simoncelli-style haircut, apparently refuted the suggestion that he was “nicely aggressive” against Bagnaia last year.

“My approach with Pecco was and will be the same. At Pecco I don’t stay aggressive, I think. I was just trying to race my whole time.

“And now he’s my teammate, he’s world champion, and my relationship is really good and I think that’s going to continue.”

Regarding 2022, it is very easy to let the past rest. Bagnaia was unfazed by the duels with Bastianini and ended up winning the title. Bastianini was considered motivated by securing the top 3 championship bonus in his contract – and he managed to do that.

And now the two are evenly matched in the title race, at least initially, so they won’t expect any favors from each other when the lights go out.

But Bagnaia knows he had something special in his former team-mate Miller – and after emphasizing last year that he wants a similar working relationship with the new KTM rider’s replacement, he’s made it explicit again here.

“Everything was settled with Jack,” he said. “With Enea, everything starts from scratch.

“It’s true, if Enea hits me, I won’t be angry. I will be frustrated. But (this is the case) with all drivers. It is normal.

“Certainly Enea was incredible last year. Without the works bike, in an independent team, he did a really good job. After three races he was leading the championship. He showed that he is very competitive and even in difficult races he was there and fought for wins. And it is right that it is so.

Bagnaia 4 Uc449112 High

“It will be very important to be smart next year, this year. To understand that we need to be together to be the race (best prepared) and then the race is a different story. Everybody can do what he wants to do.

“But in the box we have to work well and I think we’re smart enough to understand that and work well together.”

Time will tell if Bagnaia’s new teammate has a similar view on how the factory teams should work together.





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