Will the Italian Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (Ducati) win his first crown in MotoGP, the premier category of speed, on Sunday October 23 at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia? Such a scenario is possible since the Italian has a 14-point lead over Frenchman Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), defending champion, 27 over Spaniard Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and 42 over Italian Enea Bastianini (Gresini).
The three Bagnaia rivals are still trying to believe in the title, but the dynamics of recent lessons are clearly in favor of the Turinese. The latter has just garnered 52 points in four Grands Prix, when the Frenchman scored only 8. Or there are only two courses left to contest, which can yield a maximum of 50 points (a victory provides 25 points).
To be crowned, it would therefore be enough for Bagnaia to ensure that they are 25 points ahead of the second in the general classification at the end of the Malaysian Grand Prix. For example, if he wins and Quartararo does not reach the podium, the Italian will be crowned even before the last meeting of the season, in Valencia, on November 6. Even in the event of a tie on points with one of his rivals at the end of the last race, the Italian would be crowned thanks to a greater number of victories (6, against 4 for Bastianini, 3 for Quartararo and 1 for Espargaro) and podiums.
The fall of Fabio Quartararo and his retirement at the Australian Grand Prix on October 16 was undoubtedly the turning point of the season, even if Bagnaia could not do better than third that day. With its fast curves, the Phillip Island circuit finds the last layout potentially favorable to the Yamahas, which suffer from a top speed deficit against the Ducati. The Sepang circuit, with its two long straights which follow one another and its two hairpins, favors the eight drivers equipped with the powerful engine of the Bologna team.
“On this circuit, the Ducatis will be difficult to beat because they accelerate faster than the Yamahas. The race will be complicated for Fabio. For him, these two long straights are like taking two sledgehammers at every turn! »confirms Régis Laconi, winner of the Grand Prix de Valence in 1999. An observation shared by Olivier Jacque, world champion in 250 cm3 in 2000, which adds: “The start will be very important, because Fabio will have a lot of trouble overtaking on this circuit. » Once again, the outcome of Sunday’s race could therefore be decided from the first seconds. In this context, the unprecedented configuration of the starting grid on Sunday could have serious consequences.
If the Italian Enea Bastianini will start in the front row behind the Spaniard Jorge Martin, the three leaders of the world championship classification have missed their qualifying session and will start in the middle of the grid, which had never happened before this season. Bagnaia will start from ninth place, ahead of Espargaro (10e) and Quartararo (12e). Sign of great excitement as the end of the season approaches, these three drivers fell during qualifying. “El Diablo” is suffering from a slight fracture to a phalanx, but this injury should not handicap him too much for the race.
Even if his layout is not favorable to his machine, the Frenchman says he appreciates the Sepang circuit. He took pole there in 2019, for his first season in MotoGP, when he raced for Petronas, Yamaha’s satellite team. That year he finished seventh in the race, which was won by Spaniard Maverick Viñales on a factory Yamaha bike. “Pecco” Bagnaia could not do better than twelfth on a Ducati Pramac.
In 2020 and 2021, the drivers had not made the trip to Sepang since the Malaysian Grand Prix had been canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Could capricious weather, this time, come to disturb the outcome of the season? This scenario cannot be ruled out: on Friday, rainstorms fell on the Sepang circuit, while rain was not expected before Saturday.