Francesco Bagnaia says he “preferred” to settle for second behind team-mate Jack Miller in the Spanish Grand Prix after nearly “losing the front” at Turn 7 on the penultimate tour.
The Ducati pilot dropped to fifth in the early laps of the Jerez contest, though after dispatching Aleix Espargaro’s Aprilia for fourth struggled to pass Franco Morbidelli’s Yamaha, thus allowing Ducati team-mate Miller and leader Fabio Quartararo to escape up front.
The leading duo were nearly three-seconds clear of Bagnaia by the time he finally moved ahead of the Petronas SRT-run M1 with around ten laps left to run, taking second from a fading Quartararo a few circulations later.
All the while he closed down the now-leading Miller’s advantage to just over a second as the encounter raced towards its climax, though the ’18 Moto2 world champion admitted post-race he ultimately decided to “slow down and take second” after nearly losing the front of his Desmosedici at the fast Turn 7 left-hander just two laps from the flag.
“It’s been a great weekend for us and a brilliant day, we were struggling at the start (of the weekend) but then we worked on improving the bike and I think we did quite well,” said Bagnaia.
“I felt very comfortable with the bike in the race and I started pushing after 3 or 4 laps because I didn’t want to overuse the rear tyre at the start, and then when I saw my speed was enough to recover positions I started to push more and more every lap.
“I was also catching Jack (Miller) but then with two laps to go I nearly lost the front at Turn 7 so I preferred to slow down a bit and take second.
“We need to continue this way because if we can be strong at tracks that don’t suit us like this, this is very good and now we head to tracks that are better for our bike like Mugello, Barcelona and Le Mans too so I’m happy and looking forward for the next races.
“After the risk (near Turn 7 crash) I tried to just finish the race, my last two sectors of the race I was very slow and wasn’t far off losing the second position to Frankie (Morbidelli) but today was his day (Miller) and he deserved his result after his tough start to the season.”
Bagnaia captured the points lead with his run to second as Quartararo could salvage only 13th after suffering with arm pump, leaving him two points clear of the Frenchman heading to Le Mans in two weeks time.
The four-time premier class rostrum finisher added that he “didn’t know” he had snatched away the championship initiative until after the race, but cautioned there was still “a lot of work to do” to keep his title tilt on track over the remaining 16 races of the year.
“After the finish I didn’t know I was leading the championship but to finish second today with a double podium for Ducati at a track we struggle a lot is incredible,” continued Bagnaia.
“What I was missing last year was some self-confidence and consistency, and I am trying to improve on this and I did an incredible job over the winter with my trainer.
“We will try and continue in this way, but we have only had four races with 16 more to go, so there is a lot more work to do.
“Last year I was strong (at Le Mans) I started seventh, we were unlucky to get rain so I struggled so I hope its dry this year, but in any case we’ll arrive there prepared.”