Bagnaia was back on the podium after the mistake in India, but Martin won the sprint race at Motegi and moved to within 8 points of him in the standings. They are two sides of the same coin and Pecco logically prefers to see the brighter one, even if the other side cannot be ignored. “What does this 3rd place tell me? That more can be done", he said, betraying a hint of disappointment.
Then he began his story of the race: “it was important to get a good result after the crash in India and it wasn't easy because the fight with Jack was quite intense. I wasn't able to take advantage of the initial grip of the soft tyre at the start of the race to get in front and in the end I had to find another way to pass him because he braked hard, edged the corners a lot and it's a strategy that works very well when you're in defence."
Bagnaia was negatively surprised, he believed he was more competitive after testing and qualifying.
“Honestly, I expected to have more grip, I'm a bit disappointed for this reason - he admitted - In this morning's session, with a used tyre, I was lapping faster, while in the race I didn't feel too good, it can happen, the temperature was different. Tomorrow we will definitely have to start better and take advantage of the first laps. With what I had today it would have been difficult to do more. Jorge was very good in the first laps, by the second he already had a second and 8 tenths of an advantage, it's difficult to recover that in a sprint race. It took me too long to get past Jack. Ideally the potential was higher after testing and qualifying, but in the race I wasn't able to exploit it 100%."
Unlike Martin, therefore the question is whether Jorge is currently stronger than Pecco.
“They are working well, maybe better than us, I don't know if he is stronger – was the response - When Jorge is in front at the first corner he is very good in the sprints at pushing to the limit from the first to the last lap. I don't think I need to change my strategy, it's the one that allowed me to get on the podium 20 times in 27 races. I just need to focus on being more competitive, today I lost two positions at the start. Tomorrow morning it will be important to try something in the warm up and then try to block him in the race, I'm sure that if I succeeded I might have a better chance of fighting with him."
It is necessary now that the gap in the standings is so small.
“In 2018, with 6 races to go I was behind in the standings, then I won the Moto2 title with a GP to spare” he smiled, remembering his first championship.
Clearly Pecco is not intending to panic, because he would be his own worst enemy.
“In the sprint in India I finished 2nd, but I was more worried about my feelings on the bike - explains Pecco - Here it's better and I can be calmer and more relaxed for the next races. There are still 13 to go, we need to be patient, the championship is still very long and this changes the perspective."
Bagnaia has an ace up his sleeve, that of being able to compare himself with Martin on a computer screen.
“I've already seen his data - he said without embarrassment - I wanted to look at them as soon as I got to the garage, and I realized that my rear tyre was sliding more than his, even on the straight. This allows us to raise our level a lot, Ducati is so competitive also because its riders are very competitive. There are 8 bikes to fight with and improve thanks to."
Sometimes there can be alliances. Pecco offered his slipstream to Bezzecchi: “I don't like having references in front, I knew that he was behind me and also that he would have struggled more on the first lap after a crash. If you can help a friend, you help him."
Finally, not even the world champion can avoid a question about the possible arrival of Marc Marquez in Ducati. “I would be happy, he is an 8-time world champion. Seeing his data will be a stimulus and help, we will then have to see what he will be able to do” he concluded.