Before arriving in Malaysia, Bagnaia was13 points ahead of Martin, leaving him with one more, but also with a Grand Prix and two fewer races. He was especially able to beat Martin by playing with him on equal terms, and Pecco pointed out: “I couldn’t do it from Austria”. Everything counts at this point in the Championship and, although the third step of the podium isn’t the result the World Champion hoped for, it still has a special meaning.
“It matters a lot. It was very important to stay ahead of Jorge after a weekend like this,” Bagnaia said smiling. “I was very competitive. I got a pole position after so long that I missed it. I’m just sorry that I had some bad sensations during the sprint and lost some points. Otherwise, I could’ve gained more in this GP. In any case, we have to be happy. Today, I did a great job and got six seconds on Martin. It’s important in terms of speed and performance.”
He overtook you twice, and you responded twice you answered.
“Jorge was very fast in entering turn fourteen. He overtook me but went a bit wide, so I crossed the trajectory to get back in front. I didn’t want him to be there, because I thought he had a better pace than what he actually did. Then there was the overtaking on the outside. In Thailand, I hadn’t been able to close it, so it was important to do it here. Overtaking on the outside is always nicer,” he said laughing.
What does a weekend like this give you, even if you didn’t win?
“I know how one feels when you get a third place, and I feel kind of bad, because I could aspire to fight for the first two positions. In the fight with Martin, I lost some time, and when I tried to catch up with Alex and Enea, I started to feel a lot of movement at the front. I think it was because of the temperature. It would’ve been very risky to keep pushing. Sometimes finishing behind is fine.”
Do you think Martin took a hit after this race?
“No, I think we’ll get to Valencia, and we’ll be in the same identical situation.”
What do you think when you see the 14-point lead?
“That we’ll have to wait until Valencia,” he laughed. “They’re better than nothing, or even than being behind. If there were only two races left here, like in the past, it would be a good advantage, but even with sprints, they’re not many.”
Compared to a year ago, are you experiencing the title fight differently?
”The pressure is there, it will always be there, and it’s okay that it’s there. Having this kind of pressure is a luxury. Can I manage it better? We'll see. The closer we get to the end, the worse it gets. ”
What do you expect from the next Grand Prix in Qatar?
“It’s a difficult track, but it’ll be new for everyone because it has been resurfaced, and we don’t know what tires we’ll use. But I was always fast, except last year, when I knocked Jorge down when we were seventh and eighth. In 2021, I got a pole position.”
Among the other riders, who could tip the scales?
“I don’t know. Right now, Jorge and I are the only two contenders for the title. It’ll be important to be in front of everyone, but also Enea has found the best sensations. Maybe in Qatar we’ll be able to do a job together that will allow us both to be up front.”
How did you experience Bastianini’s victory?
“I’m happy for him. Last year, he won many races and fought for the title in a satellite team. When you arrive in an official team, you have to show your talent, but Enea was injured immediately. Then he came back, and it happened to him again. I’m happy for him, because he’s the rider who deserved this victory the most, not only for what he did on the track, but also for the situation he's experiencing outside.”
Did you expect it to be so fast?
“I’m always surprised with the pace we’re able to maintain this season. Last year, Enea and I were super fast, but today’s race was fifteen seconds faster. I think the performance has improved a lot because all the Ducatis are competitive, and we riders have progressed together. Keeping a pace at 1’59” is something incredible. A few years ago, here in Sepang, it was difficult to go below two minutes, even just for one lap.”