The 2022 season champion and the current MotoGP World Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia, who had a 33-point advantage over Jorge Martin going into Sunday’s race-day at the inaugural Grand Prix of India at the Buddh International Circuit, lost control on a turn on the 13th lap, failing to lift his bike back up, and crashed out of the race.
The entire Ducati Lenovo team was gutted but they managed to put up a brave face to welcome him back into the paddock.
Bagnaia was running second in Sunday’s race after having just pipped Spain’s Jorge Martin of Prima Pramac Racing when he fell.
For most part of the 21-lap race, reduced by three laps due to the high temperatures in Greater Noida, the battle was between the eventual second and third-place finishers, Spain’s Jorge Martin of Prima Primac Racing and French Fabio Quartararo of Monster Energy Yamaha.
Marco Bezzecchi, who had run into early lead, remained there to win by a massive margin of around nine seconds.
The track was hot with temperatures ranging between 44 degrees Celsius to 48 degrees, and Martin, towards the end of the race, betrayed his discomfort, unzipping his jacket before pulling up the zip back.
He later did not appear for the press conference since he was suffering from heat.
That sense of discomfort was evident on the last lap of the race as he ceded his second position to Quartararo, who made a charge as Martin went wide and let the French rider go past him. Soon, the Spaniard was back in second place and kept it despite Quartararo trying his best to out-race him.
“Really difficult to be honest, especially the last lap. During the race I was always one to one-and-a-half to two seconds behind guys like Bagnaia and Jorge,” said Quartararo, who managed to shave off milliseconds and finish 0.2 off a second behind Martin.
Bezzecchi, however, was the clear winner despite the heat that had left many fans parched as they made a beeline largely for soft-drinks with plenty of ice in the fans’ zone.
Bezzecchi acknowledged the turnout.
“I’d like to give my heart to my fans. In the Asian part of the world, they are very loud. I really like to hear the crowd. I enjoyed the course. I like the place and people. The track is big and the stands are big so it is difficult to fill up all [the seats],” said the winner, who is firmly ensconced in third position in the championship standings with 248 points behind Martin (279 points) and Bagnaia (292 points).
Martin’s effort on Sunday has cut Bagnaia’s championship lead over him to 13 but Bezzecchi, Sunday’s winner, is also clawing up.
“It wasn’t easy for sure. It was really, really tough because of the heat and for everything. I felt good on the bike and after yesterday, I was really motivated to bounce back because I think that yesterday also I could have done better than just finishing fifth [in Sprint Race],” said the Italian, who was so shorn off the liquids in his body that he couldn’t keep his lips off the champagne bottle top in the press conference before being asked to keep it down by his team manager.
Championship leader Bagnaia, who couldn’t finish, spoke after the race, recounting what went wrong during the crash.
Martin too had fallen off his bike but in Bagnaia’s words, his rear was not “chattering” as his.
“The rear [tyre] was shaking and chattering a lot so maybe this was a message to make me understand that something wasn’t working well. [But it was] Completely my mistake, said sorry to the team. Not happy with my feeling on the bike. Usually I am able to manage sliding but it was difficult this weekend to manage sliding. Our balance is different [from Martin’s].”
Bagnaia had a leg injury a few races ago but he felt better here.
“This weekend was better with legs, no issue,” he said.
No less than three bikers couldn’t compete in Sunday’s race due to injury.
Results (top five): Marco Bezzecchi 36:59:1570, Jorge Martin +8.649, Fabio Quartararo +8.855, Brad Binder +12.643, Joan Mir +13.214,
World Championship standings (top five): Francesco Bagnaia (292 points), Jorge Martin (279), Marco Bezzecchi (248), Brad Binder (192), Aleix Espargaro (160)