Pecco Bagnaia could not have asked for better at the start of the 2023 MotoGP season. The world champion put together a perfect weekend in Portimao to say the least, because the victory in the first Sprint in yesterday’s history was followed by victory in the actual Grand Prix, thus leaving Portugal with full points.
Perhaps Marc Marquez helped him in part today, almost immediately eliminating several contenders for victory, but the Ducati rider certainly gave another taste of his talent and maturity, signing his 12th victory in the premier class on a Sunday that for the Borgo Panigale manufacturer it was nothing short of triumphant, with four Desmosedici GPs in the top five positions.
As mentioned, Marquez had a hand in it, because during the third lap he arrived very long at the braking point in turn 3, first hitting Jorge Martin, who ended up very wide starting again at the back of the group, and then literally knocking down Miguel Oliveira, who was sailing in an excellent second position in his home race.
It was precisely the Aprilia RNF rider who suffered the worst, who ended up in the medical center with a suspected leg fracture. Marquez in turn withdrew and ended up under investigation for the incident, but when he went to the Portuguese garage to apologise, he allegedly explained to Razlan Razali that he was affected by a technical problem.
At this juncture Bagnaia, who was in command, took the opportunity to dig a small furrow on his pursuers. However, as the laps went by, he had to start looking over his shoulder from the return of Maverick Vinales’ Aprilia, which even completed a top 5 made up entirely of Italian bikes.
For a few laps, the Spaniard gave the feeling of being able to keep up with the Ducati rider. Indeed, to be able to attack it. In the second half of the race, however, Pecco managed to change his pace again and build a buffer which he managed very well right up to the checkered flag. However, the feeling that for Maverick the appointment with the first Aprilia-branded victory is only postponed. And now he is the direct pursuer of Bagnaia also in the World Championship, trailing by 12 points.
However, Sunday in Portimao also has another hero and it is Marco Bezzecchi, who redeemed yesterday’s crash in a big way, conquering the second podium of his career in MotoGP. The performance of the Mooney VR46 rider was capital, because in the second part of the race he even gave the feeling of being able to go and catch Vinales. In the final, however, he “settled” for a step lower than the podium which gave him a great start to the World Championship.
In the finale, the battle for fourth place was very good, in which in the end it was Johann Zarco who surprisingly prevailed, managing to move from seventh to fourth place in just a few corners on the last lap. Right in the penultimate round, he tricked Alex Marquez, who was also third in the early stages, but in the end he sealed his debut with the Gresini Racing Ducati with a top 5.
Following are the two KTMs, with Brad Binder who, despite the stiff neck that tormented him throughout the weekend, managed to finish ahead of Jack Miller. Sure, there’s no need to jump for joy for a sixth and seventh place, but the feeling is that the RC16 is a decidedly more competitive bike than what it hinted at in the winter tests.
Another bad start instead marked Fabio Quartararo’s Sunday. On the first lap, the Yamaha rider found himself 15th, but he didn’t lose his temper and in the long run managed to climb up to eighth place. However, for him the weekend score is only 8 points on a track where he dominated last year, so another uphill season seems to lie ahead.
Only ninth was the other Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro, who also lost time at the start, but then wasn’t particularly decisive even in the battle of the final rounds. Next are the two Hondas of Alex Rins and Joan Mir, who also had to take a long lap penalty for yesterday’s contact with Quartararo. Franco Morbidelli also brings home two points, even if the 14th place makes him the last one under the checkered flag.
Unfortunately, Luca Marini, who crashed, and Fabio Di Giannantonio, who returned to the pits due to a technical problem, unfortunately also figured out. Martin out too, who had climbed back into the top 10 after the contact with Marquez, but then crashed again.
We must also remember that Enea Bastianini and Pol Espargaro did not line up, stopped due to the injuries sustained respectively on Friday and Saturday. Neither of them will be in the match next Sunday in Argentina, but the feeling is that a rather long stop will be in sight for the GasGas driver.