Francesco Bagnaia admitted that he was left “really frightened” following his Turn 1 mistake in the closing laps of the Qatar Grand Prix while fighting Fabio Di Gianantonio for victory.
The factory Ducati MotoGP racer set a blazing pace throughout the 22-lap encounter, the points leader opening up a five-second advantage over the battle for third along with Gresini’s Di Gianantonio.
The latter was gunning for a maiden win as he closes on the end of potentially his final top-class campaign for the foreseeable future and eventually made the move on Bagnaia with four laps to go. Keen to extend his advantage over title rival Jorge Martin as much as possible ahead of this weekend’s season finale in Valencia, Bagnaia then tried to remount an attack to snatch back the lead from Di Gianantonio.
His plan didn’t go to plan though as he got caught out in the dirty air behind his countryman’s Ducati, causing him to narrowly miss the rear of Di Gianantonio and run wide as he couldn’t get his machine arrested before the corner.
He ended up coasting home to claim second – extending his points lead to 21 over Martin in the process – though conceded after the race that his moment left him “really frightened.”
“It was absolutely fantastic but I’m not happy because I was there fighting for the victory, and I lost it because of a mistake I already did in the past,” began Bagnaia.
“That was a pity, but in any case, I’m happy as getting sucked in by the slipstream is something that can happen.
“I wasn’t expecting it that much, but anyway we managed to do a great pace and because of this I could open the gap that allowed me to get second place whatever happened.
“I got scared in the moment because I thought I would touch Fabio (Di Gianantonio) and it would be a disaster, but luckily I could get the bike sliding which allowed me to get on the brakes harder so I could miss him.
“The last two laps I was really frightened and really slow.”
Bagnaia added that he felt relief to have extended his points advantage over Martin to a healthy 21 with only 37 left in play across the Valencia weekend, the Pramac rider having struggled to tenth with a sub-par rear tyre in the grand prix having won Saturday’s sprint encounter.
“I did my best, but my target other than the win was not to take too much risk as I wanted to take good points for the championship,” continued Bagnaia.
“This was very important considering Jorge (Martin) had the problems at the start, but it’s great as we can head to Valencia with more relief compared to when we started this triple header.
“I never saw (where Martin was), I thought he was fourth so I didn’t realise he was that far back. Last year I remember my feeling (at Valencia), and even though I had 23 points gap with one race left I was really under pressure.
“Hopefully this year is better, I think we can manage the situation better and Jorge will have to totally attack (to catch me), we are in the best position.”