Francesco Bagnaia reckons he and Ducati are “ready to be title contenders from the start” in 2022 following his fourth win in the final six races of 2021 in Valencia.
Bagnaia recovered after dropping from second to fourth in the early stages to lead home Ducati’s first ever 1-2-3 result ahead of Jorge Martin and Jack Miller, while recently crowned world champion Fabio Quartararo was only fifth over five seconds adrift of the Desmosedici squadron.
The Italian’s latest success meant he ended the season only 26 points adrift of the Yamaha rider in the final points standings having been 65 away just two races ago, Bagnaia’s blistering late-season form leading him to affirm that Ducati “are ready to be title contenders” next term.
“Yeah it was incredible, the only was possible to celebrate (Rossi’s career) was to win with his helmet and have it on the top of the podium with me, this year we’ve learned a lot and been very competitive,” said Bagnaia post race.
“Next year we are ready to be title contenders from the start, but for now we celebrate Vale and I would love to be there in his garage with him now but I will have to wait until after the press conference.
“I knew that my pace was stronger than Jorge’s (Martin) but I didn’t want to take too much risk, Turn 2 I was slow because I nearly crashed every time into there so I was slower and recovered time there every lap.
“I was sure that his pace was very competitive and it was enough to build up a gap because into the braking we were quite competitive.
“Jorge did an incredible job at the start of the race, I was struggling to pass him and when I saw it was possible I tried and then just set my pace.
“This was one of the best victories this year because I started bad and other riders overtook me, I had to come back to achieve this result on a day where Vale finished his career, so perfect job.”
Bagnaia added that he found it “pretty incredible” how Ducati were able to improve the speed of its Desmosedici throughout they year despite the bike being “exactly the same”, with set-up improvements allowing them to make significant ground on their close rivals across the final part of the campaign.
“All the Ducati riders this year have done an incredible job we have developed well over the year, Ducati changed its mind with riders this year so they chose younger ones so we started out working a bit differently.
“The bike is exactly the same (from start of season) but the settings are completely different and this has allowed us to be much more competitive, so it’s pretty incredible that with the same bike we could find this much improvement.
“A bike we had last year that wasn’t turning is now incredible, so we need to continue like this.”