The fight for the 2023 FIM MotoGP World Championship is now down to a two-round duel and the first draw comes this weekend in Qatar.
And as the circuit and Qatar gets ready for this showdown they have been lashed overnight by an intense tropical storm that caused plenty of localised flooding. No more rain is forecast for the weekend but there are currently major clean up operations underway.
Bagnaia used his tyre pressure get out of jail free card last time out as the Italian was found to be under pressure after the race at Sepang, thus there will be no more warnings for the defending champion. The same goes for title challenger Martin who copped a warning at the previous round. If either are found under pressure again they will cop a three-second time penalty following the race… Meaning the World Championship could end up being decided by tyre pressures… Just 14-points separate Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin with 74-points still to play for over the final two race weekends of the year.
How do you feel about your chances of getting the job done this weekend?
“I’m not considering this weekend as a match point, honestly I have to gain 23 points I think, and that’s too much in a single weekend. Jorge is doing a really great job and it will be more important to think session by session to work like we did last weekend in Sepang and try to be competitive. We know perfectly well that the tarmac has been resurfaced and it could be a great question for the tyres. I think it will be demanding on the tyres because it’s new. Let’s see. It’s a track that I like. We’ve always been competitive here, apart from last year when it was at the wrong part of the season. But the lap record is still mine and I think our bike suits very well to this circuit.”
The goal is to beat Martin this weekend?
“Yeah, maybe that would be better because 14 points to lead the championship is nothing, 37 points or weekend is a lot, so you can gain or lose a lot of points in one weekend. It will be important to stay calm and work well and try to do the maximum because last weekend he gained 3 points on Saturday and then lost four on Sunday, so it’s very balanced and I think it will be a head-to-head.”
What about Bastianini?
“I don’t know. I was quite clear with the team and I’ll always say that if he has the possibility to win and he’s in a situation that he needs to push. So let’s see, but for sure it’ll be OK to work together during the sessions, maybe. I always prefer to be alone, but maybe it’s time to work together.”
“We were there behind, pushing for seven points and I was on the limit. I was fighting with him and then nothing… I lost the front. It was worse for him because he became injured on the leathers, so it was quite scary for him. That wasn’t the ideal start to the season. We were in quite a bit of trouble at that point.”
On the new track surface:
“I think it will be better for everyone. New asphalt means more grip. We always arrive here in March when it’s cold at the beginning, so for me it will be better, but we need to see for the tyres because we will race in different conditions compared to the past years and it will be a lot hotter. It’ll be a big question for the tyres, for sure.”
Are you still happy to be sharing data when you’re fighting for the World Championship?
“It’s always been like this. He can see my data when I’m faster and I can see his data when he’s faster. So for me it’s the same. A good thing is that we ride in two different ways, so it’s also difficult to compare sometimes.”
Do you expect it to be a close battle here?
“Let’s see. I don’t know because the new asphalt can change a lot and in the past also last year, you need to control the tyres a lot. We were seeing fastest laps in the last laps last year so it will be tricky for sure an interesting. It would be nice to have a battle like in the past.”
“I don’t know the maths, I just know I need to recover points. This is my target. I’m already second in the Championship even if I don’t ride in the next two races so I just need to attack and recover points.
“I felt in Malaysia I was riding a little too blocked on Sunday. I was feeling like I was crashing at every corner and this didn’t help to go fast and smooth. Now it’s like I told you before, I’m already in second, I just can change to first so I will take the risks and maybe take some gambles to do it.“
Bastianini didn’t take too much risk against Pecco in the Sprint at Sepang, for example… does he have more friends out there?
“I don’t care about friends; I just care about myself. I feel if I can do my 100%, I can beat all of them so I am focused on the weekend and myself and if someone helps him or not, I can’t control it, so I don’t really care.”
On the new surface in Qatar:
“I didn’t have a look yet but as Pecco said there will be more grip with new asphalt. Tyres will be the key. We have a lot info from the past so maybe it will be useless. Maybe we have to start from zero and let’s try to be clever and fast to understand the situation.”
Ducati sharing data policy continues, or are there more secrets?
“For me it is the same, we are used to this. He knows my set up exactly because I almost never change! I think it’s like this. Battling for a Championship isn’t easy when you know your rival is looking at your data, but I’m also looking at his.”
Past battles in Qatar have been spectacular, do you expect a close battle this weekend?
“It will be super close for me. It’s difficult to understand now but it will be a close battle between all the fast riders. It’s a good chance to recover points but also a good chance to lose a lot of points. We need to be clever and fast and try to win it.”
Fans over the world are picking Team Pecco or Team Martin. Who would be dream celebrity fan?
“Difficult to say, Valentino was my idol so maybe him but that might be difficult! Let’s say Jason Statham!”
MotoGP Championship Points
Qatar Grand Prix Schedule
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