MotoGP points leader Francesco Bagnaia affirmed that he “knew” opting for the medium compound rear tyre was the “correct” choice to fight for victory in the Australian Grand Prix.
The factory Ducati pilot started the weekend on the back foot compared to title rival Jorge Martin having failed to reach Q2 directly after managing only 11th in Friday’s FP2 session. He did well to limit the damage to the Spaniard, who scored pole at Phillip Island, in qualifying though by salvaging third on the grid.
The Pramac Ducati rider elected to gamble and run the soft compound rear tyre for the race however, Martin enjoying a gap of 4.5 seconds at its peak ahead of Bagnaia as the reigning world champion saved his rubber. This proved to be a clever play as Bagnaia chased him down as Martin began to struggle for rear grip late on.
With Bagnaia securing the runners-up result behind new winner Johann Zarco, he extended his points lead over Martin to 27 ahead of Sunday’s sprint encounter after his rival slipped to fifth on the last tour – the Italian after the race explaining that he knew Martin’s early advantage was “not enough” for him to hang on once his tyres began to degrade.
“It was a very long and very tough race, and I think I missed Q2 yesterday because I focussed on using the medium more and trying to do more laps with it,” began Bagnaia following the Australian GP.
“I think he (Martin) was the only one with the possibility to race with the soft because yesterday and today he did many laps and was quite fast, but I think the maximum amount of laps he did was 19, and even this was stopping and starting again.
“Doing the full race is always a different story, and when I saw the gap he made in the early part of the race I knew it was not enough to stay there with margin in the last laps.
“During the race I was just trying to be careful with the rear tyre as I knew it was the correct choice, and I knew when Brad and Fabio (Di Gianantonio) started to fight we were catching him without pushing.
“I knew then it was the correct strategy, but I couldn’t quite do enough to beat Johann (Zarco), he deserved the victory today.”
Bagnaia added that is not getting too far ahead of himself despite having outscored Martin by 34 points in the last two race outings, the Italian remarking “anything can happen” across the final nine races of the year.
“We have to be careful because I had 62 points of a gap before Barcelona, and we lost the lead very quickly so anything can happen,” said Bagnaia.
“It’s easy to start having problems, so it’s important to have weekends like this in trying to be faster when you’re struggling and doing your best to be at the front.”