Bagnaia was 'on another level' says Quartararo after Misano tussle

By Sports Desk September 19, 2021

Francesco Bagnaia was "on another level" as he sealed victory at the San Marino Grand Prix on Sunday, so says MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo.

Bagnaia held off Quartararo in a pulsating late battle to secure back-to-back victories, following on from his maiden MotoGP win in Aragon last time out.

Yamaha's Quartararo still holds a healthy 48-point lead over Bagnaia in the world championship standings, after the Frenchman made a late charge to secure second place ahead of rookie Enea Bastianini.

Quartararo was delighted with his ride, but was full of admiration for Bagnaia's performance at Misano.

"It was so difficult because they were attacking me from all sides and I lost quite a bit of time in the beginning," Quartararo said.

"But I gave it all and sometimes was really close to the ground. I wanted to try for the win but Francesco was on another level today, I don't know how he's doing that.

"At the end we did the job, points in the championship is really important, we still have an advantage so let's stay calm and give congratulations to Francesco because he did an amazing race."

A first MotoGP win had been a long time coming for Ducati's Bagnaia, who was delighted to so swiftly add a second, and he acknowledged a strong start was crucial to his victory.

"With soft tyres, maybe I was struggling a bit, but I tried to push in the first two or three laps to make the gap," he said.

"It was very difficult, but I tried to push. The pace was quite close.

"We worked it so perfectly, two big wins in a row is incredible for me. I was targeting to win my first race but always I was missing something and now already two, so I'm very happy."

Bastianini, meanwhile, revelled in a maiden podium appearance.

"It's possible to do this with these bikes, I know the potential," Bastianini said. 

"I battled a lot during the race, it was really difficult to close the gap. It was impossible for me to attack these two riders [Bagnaia and Quartararo] today, but it's really nice to have the first podium at Misano, it's amazing for me."

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    Fabio Quartararo is "living the dream" after becoming the first Frenchman to win the MotoGP title following an eventful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

    The 22-year-old, who is competing in just his third season, was crowned 2021 world champion after closest challenger Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of Sunday's race.

    Bagnaia started from pole and was leading with five laps to go, only to come off his bike and effectively end his chances of catching Quartararo in the drivers' standings with two grands prix remaining.

    Yamaha rider Quartararo still had to see out the race to pick up the three points needed to seal top spot and did that with a fourth-placed finish in Italy.

    Quartararo's triumph, which ends Yamaha's six-year wait for a title, was achieved the hard way as he started the race in 15th after his worst ever qualifying session on Saturday.

    He gradually made his way through the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth when Bagnaia crashed.

    The Frenchman said on the eve of the race he expected the title battle to continue into the Grande Premio do Algarve next month and he felt the pressure at the start line.

    "It was tough for me because I made a really bad start and I never experienced a MotoGP start at that far back," he said. 

    "I think our front tyre pressure goes so much up [in a pack]. When I braked, I had a lot of moments almost crashing, so to be close to the podium was amazing.

    "It was a new experience, and also with the pressure of the championship I was feeling really bad this morning.

    "Let's say I had pain in the belly, it is the first time that I found it difficult to eat before the race, so it was a big day and we managed to be world champion.

    "After this I think the weight of trying to be world champion, from now, will totally lose the pressure and I can enjoy the two last races."

    Bagnaia had just stretched away from eventual race winner Marc Marquez when he crashed and cut a desolate figure at the end of the race.

    The Italian, who was one of the first to congratulate Quartararo, denied losing focus with the winning line in sight and also backed the call to use hard front tyres.

    That was a decision that also cost Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who crashed early on at the same corner as Bagnaia.

    "Medium for me was worse than soft; soft was already on the limit yesterday and this morning, so the hard was the correct choice," Bagnaia said.

    "The only thing is with the hard you just need to push every single lap like hell, to let the tyre be hot.

    "As for the crash, that was not because I lost concentration. I was pushing – it was winning or gravel, and I tried all to achieve this win.

    "I'm happy about my performance. Of course I'm a bit frustrated about the result because I think we were deserving of more.

    "But we just try to be always more competitive, and for next year we are for sure in a good way."

  • Quartararo crowned world champion after dramatic Bagnaia crash Quartararo crowned world champion after dramatic Bagnaia crash

    Fabio Quartararo has been crowned 2021 MotoGP world champion for a first time following a dramatic conclusion to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix that saw title rival Francesco Bagnaia crash out.

    Yamaha rider Quartararo had to outscore Bagnaia by three points in Sunday's race to bring an end to the title battle with two races to go, but a career-worst finish of 15th in qualifying meant the Frenchman had plenty of work to do.

    The 22-year-old gradually climbed the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth, well off leader Bagnaia, with five laps to go in Italy.

    Then came an incredible moment as Bagnaia, on course for a third victory in four races, lost the front of the Desmosedici into turn 15 to effectively hand Quartararo the title – and a first for Yamaha since 2015.

    Quartararo continued his ascent into third place before dropping behind Enea Bastianini into his eventual final position of fourth, with Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro leading a one-two for Repsol Honda.

    It is a second successive triumph for Marquez on the back of his victory at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

    Bagnaia's Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who started in second, had earlier crashed out in a drama-filled race, while Valentino Rossi battled to 10th in his final race on home soil.

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    Max Verstappen ended Mercedes' run of six consecutive poles at the United States Grand Prix on Saturday as Lewis Hamilton repeatedly described his runs in Texas as a "struggle" but the rivals are geared up for another head-to-head showdown Sunday. 

    Verstappen, Hamilton and Sergio Perez each held pole position at various points in qualifying before the Red Bull star emerged on top. 

    That has not been the norm in Austin, but Verstappen noted the real work remains to be done on race day. 

    "Yeah, maybe a tiny bit of a surprise but you can clearly see it has been swinging a bit throughout the whole season," Verstappen told reporters. "Luckily it’s still doing that and yeah, we’ll see.

    "I’m of course happy with the performance we’ve had today, let’s find out tomorrow in the race – again, it’s a different story and then of course we’ll move on again to the next race and that again can be a different story because you can maybe look like favourites going into the weekend but you still need to pay attention to every single detail, to try and make it work.

    "It’s so closely matched that if you maybe miss one tiny detail or you just can’t bring it together for whatever reason you miss out and that’s what happened for us, for example, in Turkey."

    Verstappen and Perez finished second and third behind Valtteri Bottas a fortnight ago in Istanbul and will look to get Red Bull back to the top of the podium in Texas, where Mexico native Perez in particular has enjoyed strong support from the crowd. 

    Perez will start third but said he does not believe starting positions will play a significant factor Sunday. 

    "I think it’s going to be a pretty long race tomorrow, so not too concerned about the qualifying," he said. "I think there are plenty of opportunities for tomorrow."

    Hamilton, a six-time winner at the circuit, will share that hope as he tries to bounce back after a fifth-place finish in Turkey, though his comments Saturday did not suggest much confidence in the way his car has felt this week. 

    "It was definitely a difficult session," Hamilton said. "I would say for us since P1 it’s been a little bit tougher, we have been making lots of changes to try to improve the car.

    "But it’s been a real challenge, and going into qualifying I think the first session wasn’t that great. Q1 wasn’t spectacular but it started to improve, particularly on the medium tyre, and the last two runs were pretty good.

    "I think [Red Bull] have just been pretty quick all weekend and I think we were able to match them or be ahead in P1 but since then they have really pulled a lot.

    "You can tell that the car is quick because obviously both of them are up there and pulling in some seriously good laps. But we are in a good position to fight them tomorrow and I hope we can."

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