He had dominated the winter tests and it seemed obvious that he could repeat this weekend, however Pecco Bagnaia started more quietly on the first Friday of the season. Quietly so to speak, because the reigning world champion arrives at the Portuguese Grand Prix as a great favorite both to reconfirm the title and to begin his defense at number 1.
Portimao is the dawn of a new MotoGP season, which this year sees the new format much discussed last year. Ready, go, Friday is already over and the Ducati rider arrives for Saturday qualifying (and Sprint Race) in third position at the end of free practice. Although the position is not what everyone expected, Pecco shows calmness, given by the confidence in his vehicle and also by an impressive race pace.
The reigning champion didn’t lose his temper even when his Desmosedici left him stranded: “It was a fuel problem. Unfortunately, we’re all rookies with this new programme. So we made a mistake about the fuel, but it’s good the same. In the end it didn’t change much if I did the first or fifth time today, the important thing is to be among the ten,” explained Bagnaia.
In fact, only 147 thousandths separate the reigning champion from the summit, surprisingly occupied by Jack Miller. The Australian was the author of a backstroke that took him to the top, ahead of Maverick Vinales’ Aprilia and the number 1 Ducati, even if in terms of pace it seems that there aren’t too many rivals for the Desmosedici: “Jack I didn’t expect him up front, but he took a big step forward compared to the tests, both in terms of time attack and pace. I’m glad he’s up front, because I think he deserves it.”
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
There was certainly no shortage of thrills during this Friday of free practice. The fear for Pol Espargaro’s bad accident (here the updates) captured the attention, however Pecco also had a great moment of fear, author of a last-minute rescue that prevented him from falling: “I am very proud of the rescue, I had never succeeded and then today doing it in fourth full was nice. I’m happy, I kept it up well, I finished the suit a bit, but that’s the least. When I made the rescue I said ‘I’ll stop, change the rear tire and come right back’. It limits you in certain situations, but I was ninth and I needed time, I couldn’t think about the fact that he closed me down.”
New year, old difficulty coefficients. Yes, because the rain fell in the Portuguese morning and messed up the plans a bit. Furthermore Bagnaia, at the end of Friday in Portimao, complained about the lack of grip, which however did not prevent the riders from setting incredible times: “Let’s say that there is a lot of wind and the grip level is not high considering the times we are doing. Compared to the tests, the grip is very little, but we are going very fast both with pace and with the time attack, among other things with a tire that already had one lap. Because I put it before Pol’s pink flag. So I’m very happy with today”.
“There’s less grip perhaps due to the rain this morning or perhaps because the Moto3 and Moto2 have been riding a lot, the temperatures seem high but it’s cold. Times are fast because we are scary! The rain? It went well that we did the tests, because we know how the bike goes and so it went well anyway. But let’s say that in certain situations starting with a new program thus not knowing everything wasn’t the best ”, she continues.
Portimao is known, it is not one of the simplest tracks in the championship, but apparently it is not one of the safest either. Fabio Di Giannantonio had already thrown himself into the gravel during testing, calling it dangerous because it caused the crash that forced him to miss the last day of testing. Today Pol Espargaro fell, ending up on the air fence and recovering from a pulmonary trauma. A new controversy thus arises among the drivers, who want to address the Safety Commission to discuss the lack of safety at the circuit: “It wasn’t the best that the power went out. I’m also very angry about the safety of this track, because we’ve been asking for the same things for four years, but we still haven’t reached a point.”
“Today, however, we riders can raise our voices because a corner without an air fence is incredible. Then let’s say that Pol arrived so strong at the barriers because gravel is almost a problem here. The gravel has improved since the tests but it’s not enough. There are more things to consider for the future, a change needs to be made and we’ll see what they tell us and what to do as a result”, concludes the reigning champion.
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