When they ask him how he feels, Bagnaia spreads his arms and gives in to a smile. He couldn't have dreamed of a better ending: becoming champion at the last Grand Prix by also winning the race. The perfect day at the perfect moment, with Martin losing his mind and Pecco enjoying the triumph. “I feel incredible, I feel at the top level of happiness which was never like this. The thing is, I’m so happy as well because I won the race - he began to put his thoughts and emotions in order - I'm so happy because I also managed to win the race on the day I became champion and it has always been my dream, I needed it."
How did you experience this race?
“I’m so happy but I was scared. With five laps I started to get cold on the bike and I was very scared on the bike because of the front tyre which was the hard. It was not an easy day because I was quite under pressure.”
More or less than last year?
“In 2022 it was worse, this time I managed to manage it better. Yesterday I made the wrong tire choice, but having used the medium I was prepared for today."
What did Valentino say to you before the start?
“Yesterday he asked me why I chose the medium rear and I was asking myself the same (laughs). Today he was just telling me to be calm, to understand the situation and Jorge was in the worst situation because he needed to win. A win for him and I needed to finish fifth, and I was faster than to be in the top five.”
Did you ever think that only Rossi and Marquez had defended the MotoGP title before you today?
“So many times and it was fantastic to do it. Wearing the number 1 on the fairing, finishing 2nd would have been a bad result, I had to win. I am very proud of last season but even more so of this one because I managed to reconfirm myself despite many mistakes and misfortunes. The important thing is to be able to find the solution in every difficulty and we did it this year too. At a certain point this title seemed to be going away."
How much did the incident at Barcelona affect your season?
“It was a big setback. From that moment I started to struggle, not so much at Misano, but in the following races. I couldn't ride due to the pain and then I wasn't as fast as before, from then on I always struggled in the Sprints. In the last few races, however, I managed to take a step forward and I am proud of my team, who did a fantastic job, and of my family, my girlfriend, who helped me in every situation."
What did that episode teach you?
“It was a bad crash and getting hit made it even worse. I was very lucky to be able to race the following week, even though I wasn't ready, the two podiums at Misano helped me get back to focusing on the championship. It was a very difficult time, but it was also an important lesson for me."
Have you ever doubted yourself?
“It never happened, I knew that I would always be very strong and this awareness helped me a lot. I have gotten better at handling certain situations and I want to continue learning from my mistakes. I thought I had already succeeded, but then earlier this year I made the same mistakes. It's a process and you have to keep working."
Was it more difficult to beat Quartararo or Martin?
“It’s difficult to compare. Last year Fabio started really well but as soon as I started to win he was more in trouble. He was fast, he is super fast but his bike was not giving him the possibility to fight against me. We were in a different situation. With Jorge, after Barcelona he was with much more confidence every weekend and it was difficult to stop. It was more difficult this year. Sharing more data is useful but more stressful sometimes.”
You made a few too many mistakes this season, but so did Martin.
“In Indonesia Jorge crashed when he was 3 seconds ahead, the same thing happened to me in Austin: I felt unbeatable and I crashed without understanding why. Sometimes it's better to stay calm and understand the situation before pushing."
Di Giannantonio missed out on the podium due to tire pressure, was that a concern for you?
“A lot, I thought the front tire was too low, I felt the tire moving, that's why I let the KTMs pass. Maybe it was just the temperature, but things got better behind them. But in the last laps I broke out in a cold sweat, also because I hadn't seen the board that Martin had crashed, I thought he was 4th and in the event of my crash he would have won. If I had seen that pitboard it would have been a bit easier (laughs)."