2022 Sepang MotoGP Race Result: Victory And Vindication

The prospect of rain, an eclectic front row and a title on the line, but with the line drawn in middle of a feisty pack – there were a lot of reasons to be equal parts anxious and excited about the penultimate race of the season. Thankfully the rain stayed away and the premier class rewarded us with a tense battle to the final lap, when Pecco Bagnaia secured a seventh victory of the season and sealed the team’s championship for Ducati. Although they had plenty of reasons to celebrate, the Bologna squad suffered through 20 laps of intense pressure from Enea Bastianini, who spent the race taunting his future teammate before settling for second. While Bagnaia had a perfect race, rival Fabio Quartararo wasn’t too far off and claimed the final step of the podium to take the title fight to a final round decider.

Poleman Jorge Martin had made a great start to lead the field from the off, but Bagnaia stole the spotlight with what he himself called the best start of his career, going from ninth on the grid to second by turn two, ahead of Bastianini and Marc Marquez. Quartararo followed his example with a great first few corners, climbing into sixth, behind Franco Morbidelli, who caused no further trouble for his teammate and focused on keeping the chasing Suzukis at bay in the early laps. Brad Binder made some quick progress into ninth, with Aleix Espargaro lingering in 10th and battling Marco Bezzecchi after a sluggish start for both riders. Their teammates didn’t fare much better, both dropping out of the top 15 on the opening lap and with Luca Marini going on to retire with a mechanical issue.

Meanwhile, Martin was in a rush to escape right out the gate and held a seven tenths’ advantage after the first couple of laps, while Bastianini held station behind – close behind – Bagnaia and with Marquez dropping one second back and into the clutches of the Yamaha and Suzuki duos. Morbidelli was less of a threat at that stage, the Italian serving his first of two long lap penalties on lap five and dropping to 10th position, but Quartararo was keener to get past Marquez and was helped by the Honda man leaving the door wide open at the first and last corners. Quartararo picked up fourth place on lap five and was left with two and a half seconds to find to the leading trio, where Martin maintained a one second gap over his Ducati colleagues. If two of the title contenders were enjoying their rapid comebacks, Aleix Espargaro continued to struggle and dropped to 15th, behind Jack Miller and Cal Crutchlow, and soon came under fire from Morbidelli, who had lost further ground after his second long lap penalty.

Back at the front, disaster struck on lap seven, when Martin gifted Bagnaia the lead by unceremoniously crashing out, but this also handed Quartararo a podium position. The Frenchman was almost three seconds behind Bagnaia and Bastianini but was enjoying a one and a half second buffer to the next group, where a rampant Bezzecchi was quite fiercely battling Marquez and Joan Mir, with Alex Rins more patiently in tow. Bezzecchi looked like the quickest of the lot and soon stretched a bit of a gap over the Spanish trio, while closing in on Quartararo to join the podium battle and try to play his part in the title fight.

The hierarchy had settled by the halfway point of proceedings, with Bagnaia closely stalked by Bastianini – a bit too close for comfort for the Ducati garage - while Quartararo appeared unable to make any significant inroads into their three-second advantage. Bastianini eventually decided that lap 11 was the right time to make his move and took the lead at turn four, leaving Bagnaia with a decision to make – and he made it quickly, immediately showing intentions to retaliate. While all eyes were on the somewhat unexpected victory battle, Bezzecchi was steadily reeling in Quartararo, the gap down to half a second with nine laps remaining and about to put Ducati in the uncomfortable situation of asking for favours publicly.

While the cameras lingered on Ducati’s whispering holy trinity, Bagnaia appeared keen to take matters into his own hands, glued to the rear tyre of his future teammate and attacking at the final corner with seven laps remaining. Although Bastianini still seemed keen to respond, the attention briefly turned to Quartararo and Bezzecchi, who were yet to trade places but had closed in to 1.5 seconds of the two leaders. Although the Frenchman was not closing in at a fast rate, he soon put a second into Bezzecchi and distanced the Italian with four laps remaining. The Suzukis had lost over four seconds on the podium battle while dealing with the Marquez bottleneck, but the Honda man was keen to keep entertained for the remaining laps and gladly mingled with his compatriots. However, a threat was coming from behind, where Jack Miller found some late pace to gain ground inside the top 10, also helped by Mir fading from the battle for fifth and crashing out with three laps left.

Bagnaia and Bastianini entered the final lap still inseparable and although the Pramac man kept everyone’s heart rate up right until the chequered flag, Bagnaia secured victory by two tenths of a second. Quartararo claimed third over two seconds later, to ensure the title battle goes to Valencia, while Bezzecchi secured a safe fourth, six seconds ahead of Alex Rins. The Suzuki man got a bit of breathing room from Marquez in the final handful of laps, while the Honda rider came under late pressure from Miller, the Australian stealing sixth place on the last lap. Binder, Johann Zarco and Morbidelli rounded out the top 10 positions over the line, although Aleix Espargaro was handed back 10th after a review of a last lap tangle with Morbidelli. 

Bagnaia and Quartararo head to the final round separated by 23 points in the world championship battle, while Espargaro gives up his title hopes and keeps third place by a sole point from Bastianini.

Results:

Pos No. Rider Bike Time/Diff
1 63 Francesco Bagnaia Ducati 40:14.3320
2 23 Enea Bastianini Ducati 0.270
3 20 Fabio Quartararo Yamaha 2.773
4 72 Marco Bezzecchi Ducati 5.446
5 42 Alex Rins Suzuki 11.923
6 43 Jack Miller Ducati 13.472
7 93 Marc Marquez Honda 14.304
8 33 Brad Binder KTM 16.805
9 5 Johann Zarco Ducati 18.358
10 41 Aleix Espargaro Aprilia 21.591
11 21 Franco Morbidelli Yamaha 23.235
12 35 Cal Crutchlow Yamaha 24.641
13 88 Miguel Oliveira KTM 24.918
14 44 Pol Espargaro Honda 25.586
15 25 Raul Fernandez KTM 27.039
16 12 Maverick Viñales Aprilia 30.427
17 73 Alex Marquez Honda 33.322
18 87 Remy Gardner KTM 33.691
19 36 Joan Mir Suzuki 41.838
Not Classified
  49 Fabio Di Giannantonio Ducati 20:22.0200
  40 Darryn Binder Yamaha 20:21.1900
  89 Jorge Martin Ducati 12:03.5180
  45 Tetsuta Nagashima   08:16.9860
  10 Luca Marini Ducati 02:24.9900
Round Number: 
19
2022
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Comments

If Enea had gone for a last lap lunge from afar, crashed and took Pecco with him, the championship would still go to Valencia but Enea would not be in that fight. In that respect Enea had nothing to lose. The only chance Enea had was to beat Pecco. Enea's best result would be a win and Pecco not finish. Option one would have Fabio leading by 11 points going into Valencia and Enea not able to win the championship. Option 2 would have Fabio leading by 6 points and Enea would still be 23 points behind. There's some cold logic to option 2 and therefore Enea should have made any move possible. At the very least he might still have a chance albeit a very slim one. Sometimes the sane option, number 3 -> 'don't be silly', is so boring. The right choice though.

Seeing Tardozzi looking dumbfounded whilst standing between the two teams in Parc Ferme and with Enes & team completely ghosting the boys in red was a good watch. Ducati really have themselves an issue next year and Enes doesn't seem to give two shits about what any of them think. He is dismissive of the suggestion of team orders and more generally of Pecco entirely.

I gotta say I'm starting to warm to it. 

'Ducati really have themselves an issue next year...'.....How so? Most teams would love to have two riders at the front. Enea, starting next year, will have a clean slate to race on. Should be very interesting....ESPECIALLY if HRC gives Marc something other then a 3 legged goat to ride.

3 legged goat, that one made my day ^_^

I don't see the issue either. If Enea wins the first race next year he'll be in the driver seat and it's up to Pecco to beat him and show who's the alpha male in that box. Could others profit of the rivalry? Maybe, but a championship has so many twists and turns, so many things can and will happen that it's quite likely that it won't have a defining effect on the final outcome.
It will however, undoubtetly make for interesting viewing and reading, bring it !

And Yamaha need to give FQ20 more than a 2-legged goat to ride. Hey rode like a champion today. MM93 is on an angry and bucking 3-legged goat.

Nice to see PB having a real battle. The Beast knows, as has been said, its win or you're a looser at the factory squad. No reason to pull punches, he needs to be beating his future teammate now. He was certainly battling with tire issues toward the end. PB's ride was impressive as he held his own and made no mistakes under pressure. Good on him.

FQ was in great form, a champion's ride. Odds do not favor him but he has kept it alive and the racing gods favor those who help themselves.

The race with MM and the Suzuki's was interesting. Wish I saw more than the left panel insert. After the loss to Rins last weekend and with Mir heading to the factory garage that battle held weight. Interesting that Marc was beaten again in a heads up fight with Rins - yeah the bike's better but never good mentally. The future intra-team battle, however, seems to have been mission accomplished.

I think it's worth to mention that both showed a great performance. Fabio started excellent but Pecco's start was out of this world and both rode for the whole race without much holding back. I still think Bestia would have gone for the last corner again, if he hadn't his moment halfway through the last lap and only afterwards he decided to take it a notch down - or he had Ogura's "racespirit" in mind as an example of how not to do it?

That start was amazing, incredible even. PB had a fantastic ride. 

I agree, the moment seemed to put an end to the action last lap. Surprising to see the Beast run out of tire towards the end but I guess that just shows how hard they were pushing. 

And for Enea to be shielding Pecco from the attacks of the other riders!

If Ducati had not issued finally the long awaited team orders and reminded Bastianini that he is a rider under contract directly from the factory, Pecco would have never had a chance!

How do you figure? EB was giving him a pretty good run for much of the race. I don’t think anyone can say Pecco didn’t work for that one. 

That race was like watching three school administrators standing behind a chain link fence screaming at two boys to stop fighting, only due to the heat of the battle and the cacophony of the onlookers the message was barely perceptible. Clearly Bastiannini's perspective of dangerous riding around Bagnaia differs from that of Tardozzi, Ciabotti, and Dall'Igna. Which made for an entertaining show. Well Motoshrink, it does not look like Bastiannini is fake with Bagnaia on the track.

I thought it was hilarious. Maybe I was putting words into their mouths or minds but it seemed like....we should...we don't want to...we must though...be we don't like to...with each of the three at different parts of a loop. As soon as some certainty seemed to appear on one face a few words with another face and back to square one. I think they have handled it very well this season. They've risked a lot to be fair to their riders.

One of those bad lip sync videos is needed! Gigi nearly looked haggard for a change. It has been a long 9 years since he arrived.

To me it looked like Enea went for a well thought-out decision regarding his championship chances during the race. 

He could have overtaken Pecco but was there a reason to? If he did overtake Pecco and end up first, and fabio didn't overtake Pecco and remained in third, then Enea is out of the championship anyway. And fabio didn't look like he would overtake Pecco. There's no point overtaking Pecco then, for Enea. So why spoil a championship chance for future employer and old friend? 

He can beat him next year anyway 😁😂

Yeah, WaveyD and GSP, it was intended as a light-hearted dig at perceived power and control. And I tried to phrase it that way, Cloverleaf, but sometimes I cannot help myself: Pete was raised in a household of snarks. ;)

I agree with your view, WaveyD. The Ducati Corse fellas managed their championship push respectfully. It looked like a fair fight. I think Bastiannini tried to win the race.

Just imagine it. All that money, all those years, all those tears. Yet they have been willing to risk watching it all crash to the floor...again...for the sporting ambitions and ego of some fast kids. I don't know their motivation for doing so but credit where credit is due. Their approach to the matter this year deserves a lot of respect.

for the thorough write-up. Just a small mistake: EB = Gresini, not Pramac....

as Pecco was waiting for Beasties pitlane interview to finish he sort of stood to his left, behind him. Enea finished with his interview with Simon and poses for some photographers to the right. Pecco is again slightly behind Enea and motions to hit him with his fists, a  knid of hammer movement. It made me laugh and also drove home that the battle was real on the track. Pecco had to take real risks challenge his comfort zone, otherwise there would have been no win. So while they are friendly I reckon next year we'll see fireworks!
And I agree. Brave of Ducuti to let it roll as they have done, particularily in regards to Enea and Jorge. Bezzechi and Johan might have had different debts to repay!!. 

I laughed at that too. Bang Bang Pecco's Silver Hammer....

The Corse guys have everything to lose and the Gresini guys have nothing to lose.