Valentino Rossi says he is “very proud” to see VR46 academy graduate Francesco Bagnaia finally breaking his MotoGP victory duck in the Aragon Grand Prix after holding off Marc Marquez.
Bagnaia became the second VR46 member to find success in the premier class after Franco Morbidelli-who won the Moto2 world title in 2017 with Rossi’s team-racked up a trio of wins last year with the Petronas SRT Yamaha outfit en-route to the runners-up spot in the riders standings.
Bagnaia-who won the intermediate class world title the year after his countryman with VR46- received a factory Ducati chance for this season following a break-out sophomore season with Pramac in 2020, though struggled to score his first win after coming up short on several occasions-most notably in the Austrian GP where a gambling Brad Binder managed to stay put in slicks on a wet track to deny him.
While Rossi himself suffered yet another tough race to finish a distant 19th in what is turning out to be a horror final season in MotoGP, the seven-time premier class champion said it was a “great day” to see another VR46 rider find success in the pinnacle of grand prix motorcycle racing after Bagnaia fended off the advances of Marquez in the latter stages of the Aragon GP.
The Petronas SRT pilot also revealed that he had pushed Bagnaia to take his ultimately race-winning tyre choice following his recent trend of going against the grain relative to the rest of the field, a strategy that has more often than not gone against him after struggling for speed in the race after showing strong speed throughout the earlier parts of the weekend.
“It’s a great day for Pecco (Bagnaia) with his victory in MotoGP, it’s a moment every motorcycle rider never forgets and the battle like that until the last lap is fantastic,” said Rossi.
“I’m happy for him personally because he is my friend and we spend a lot of time together, he deserves it because he is really fast and can ride the Ducati in a fantastic way and I think it is the right moment because he was already very strong through the season and was sometimes very unlucky.
“I’m also very proud of the academy, as we brought Pecco from Moto3 to reach this level so I’m very happy.
“I pushed him a lot with the tyres because sometimes he chooses a strange tyre strategy, and yesterday I told him ‘you have to start first and stay in front for the whole race to win, but to this you have to put the hard and soft tyres’ and this ended up being the right choice.”