An overcast Mugello with more modest attendance that we’re used to did not deter the fleet of Italians and Ducatis crowding the first rows of the grid and it was Pecco Bagnaia who got to enjoy a dream race on home soil, recovering from a subdued start to take a first victory in Mugello and second of the season. Fabio Quartararo continues to magically repel the power of (most) Ducatis and the world champion kept within a second of victory contention for the entire race before settling for second. Equally impressive was Aleix Espargaro, who snatched a home podium for Aprilia from the clutches of three feisty Bologna bullets.
Although he faded somewhat throughout the race, Fabio Di Giannantonio made a good start from pole, but soon allowed Luca Marini to get some time in the limelight on the opening lap. Quartararo and Espargaro also had a great launch off the line, getting ahead of some of the Ducatis, demoting Johann Zarco to sixth position and Bagnaia to ninth, with a fast-starting Brad Binder and Takaaki Nakagami separating the two. After a good start – the last for quite a while – Marc Marquez dropped to the bottom of the top 10, holding off Miguel Oliveira and Enea Bastianini in the early stages. Meanwhile, the Suzukis were knocking on the doors of the top 15, Alex Rins more successful than Joan Mir, despite starting further back on the grid.
Back at the front, Bezzecchi took his turn in the spotlight by breezing past his teammate into San Donato at the start of lap two, while the poleman was under attack from the reigning world champion – the two trading places several times over the next couple of laps, but the rookie and his superior top speed not making it easy for Quartararo. Meanwhile, Bagnaia was recovering ground and was up to fifth, demoting Espargaro, Zarco and Binder, while Marquez was keeping Bastianini at arm’s length.
Bezzecchi kept top spot warm in the early stages, but trouble started brewing when he lost wingman Marini to an overtake from Quartararo on lap four. The trio briefly managed to extend a half second gap while Di Giannantonio proved to be a bit of a handful for Bagnaia, but the factory Ducati man settled that battle by lap five, promptly caught up with the leaders and breezed past both Marini and Quartararo into turn one. Espargaro tried to keep up with the Ducatis surrounding him and although a wide take at turn one dropped him to seventh position, he was quick to recover, getting past Zarco and Di Giannantonio within a couple of laps.
By lap seven, Bezzecchi, Bagnaia, Quartararo and Marini had stretched an advantage of almost one second, the Yamaha intruder admirably keeping up with the Ducatis while Aleix Espargaro was pushing to join that elite group. Bagnaia inevitably took the lead at turn one with 15 laps remaining, just as Espargaro made it a five-man leading group, with Zarco heading the pursuit 1.5 seconds back, in a group including Bastianini and Binder, but with Di Giannantonio, Oliveira, Marquez and Nakagami not too far back. Meanwhile, both Suzukis abandoned the fight on lap eight, crashing out in quick succession from outside the top 10.
Presumably afraid of Bagnaia attempting a breakaway, Quartararo attacked Bezzecchi a couple laps later, but the rookie’s rapid retaliation dropped them one second behind the leader at the halfway point of the race. Quartararo eventually got a bit of a breather as the Mooney VR46 teammates engaged in battle, with Espargaro unable to get involved just yet but with a new threat coming from behind, where a resurgent Bastianini was brining himself and Zarco back into contention. Despite the Italian’s pace promising fireworks, Bastianini’s race ended in the gravel at turn four with 10 laps remaining.
Back at the front, Bagnaia was still juggling a one-second advantage over Quartararo, who kept that gap steady but was not really closing in. The gap briefly ticked under the one second mark as the race entered the final six laps but the Italian’s advantage on the straight quickly remedied that and it looked like the podium was pretty much decided, with Espargaro getting past Bezzecchi & Co and steadily shaking off the gaggle of Ducatis over the final handful of laps.
Bagnaia started the final lap with a second’s advantage over Quartararo and managed that gap to the chequered flag, while Espargaro crossed the finish line another second later to score a fourth consecutive podium. Zarco attacked Bezzecchi heading into the final lap to take 4th, while Binder sniffed around Marini over the last couple of laps, but it was too late to try a move and the South African settled for a solid seventh. Nakagami was the top Honda in eighth place, coming under some late pressure from Miguel Oliveira, while Marc Marquez bids goodbye to the 2022 season (for now) with a top 10 result. A video finish awarded Di Giannantonio the best result of his rookie season yet with 11th position, one thousandth of a second keeping him ahead of Maverick Viñales.
Quartararo’s spirited fight on enemy territory extends his advantage in the world championship to eight points over Espargaro, while Bastianini drops to a 28-point deficit and Bagnaia climbs three positions to trail the Frenchman by 41 points.
|11||49||Fabio Di Giannantonio||Ducati||12.916|