In 2021, Ducati came close to fulfilling their dream of winning a second MotoGP riders' championship after Casey Stoner in 2007, Pecco Bagnaia falling just short of holding Fabio Quartararo from the title. That came after an impressive second half of the season, in which the factory Ducati rider won four of the last six races, and finished on the podium in a fifth.
That is quite a turnaround for the Italian. Bagnaia's first season in MotoGP was dismal, finishing fifteenth in the championship with just three top ten finishes and six DNFs, including four in a row between Jerez and Barcelona. But he had shown promise in the preseason test in 2019, ending in second place behind Danilo Petrucci with a lap of 1'58.302. That time was just 0.037 slower than Bagnaia managed on the second day of the Sepang test at the start of February 2022, with three years of experience and a much improved Desmosedici underneath him.
The man who has guided him in this transition is crew chief Cristian Gabarrini. The Italian engineer is no stranger to success: Gabarrini was crew chief to Ducati's only world champion, Casey Stoner, from 2007 to 2012, and worked briefly with Marc Marquez on his arrival at Honda before returning to the fold at Bologna.
Gabarrini is a quietly spoken, intense, thoughtful man, who weighs his words carefully. He wears his razor-sharp intelligence lightly, listening carefully and giving precise and thoughtful answers in clear and easily understood language.