Francesco Bagnaia came back from 13th on the grid to win the Indonesian Grand Prix and reclaim the title lead from Jorge Martin who crashed out of the race.
Martin was the early front runner but went down on Lap 13. Bagnaia, in contrast, was on the move and picked up positions in a dramatic race to eventually claim victory and return to the top of the title standings by 18 points over Martin.
“I think we deserved a race like this,” Bagnaia said in parc ferme. “Starting from P13, during the first laps I did the maximum I could. Then when I saw Martin going, I said to myself: ‘Take care of the tyres, and then let’s see.’
“It was the correct feeling because in the last 10 laps I was on another pace, I was controlling things well. I’m very, very happy.”
Martin had a rocket start from sixth on the grid and stole the holeshot into Turn 1. Maverick Vinales was the only rider who could keep up with him and the duo made an early breakaway. Behind, Bagnaia too made a great start from down in 13th and was already up to third by Lap 3.
Blistering pace from Martin saw him edge away from the field and the race swiftly looked his for the taking. However, disaster struck for the Spaniard on Lap 13 when he crashed out of a three-seconds lead.
Vinales inherited the position initially, but Bagnaia was on the move and hit the front seven laps later. He could not pull away from Vinales though and both riders came under increasing pressure from Fabio Quatararo who was the fastest rider on track in the late stages.
Quartararo started attacking Vinales in earnest, having threatened to do for a good time, on the penultimate lap. Bagnaia was the one to profit as his rivals engaging in battle allowed him just enough breathing space to cover his position.
Although Quartararo desperately tried to make a move stick, Vinales held firm and brought runner-up over the line. “I was running so well, I was controlling the tyre, just Pecco [Bagnaia] was a little bit faster than I was,” the Aprilia rider said post-race.
“I learned from yesterday when I pushed too much on corner exit and my rear tyre was gone. So I just controlled it today and the race was coming to me. I’m very happy, really pleased about the job, and very proud of my team. We will try to replicate this in Australia but for now we need to enjoy an amazing result.”
In the end, less than half a second separated the top three. Despite this being a silver lining for Yamaha in what has been a tough season and team boss Massimo Meregalli rating Quartararo’s performance as “superb”, the Frenchman himself described his race as: “Frustrating.”
“I know my speed, I was catching up; we know what we missed and it’s really frustrating when you know your capacity,” he said. “But to be back on the podium; it’s been a long time from Austin to India and from India to here was shorter, so I’m really happy and hopefully Phillip Island will be a great race for us.”
The positions behind the podium were fiercely contested with six riders in contention at points. Eventually, Fabio Di Giannantonio prevailed to bag one of his best Grand Prix performances ahead of Marco Bezzecchi who bounced back admirably from a recent collarbone injury.
Brad Binder had to settle for sixth following two Long Lap penalties for making contact with Luca Marini and Miguel Oliveira respectively. His team-mate Jack Miller was seventh while Aleix Espargaro dropped out of the fight with his soft/soft tyre gamble fading and Oliveira not being able to recover from running wide following the incident with Binder.
Instead, Enea Bastianini claimed eighth on his return from injury and Alex Rins rode a well-controlled race to ninth. Espargaro closed out the top 10.
RIDER OF THE DAY: PECCO BAGNAIA
It seems like a cop-out to name the race winner as rider of the day, especially given a number of great performances up and down the order. However, the odds were stacked against Bagnaia today and he defied them impressively.
Granted, Bagnaia profited from Martin’s crash that virtually handed the championship lead back to him. Staying not only error-free himself and indeed pushing for the win and pulling it off in such a tense situation is still a remarkable feat though, even more so given the fact that Bagnaia has historically tended to crumble under pressure.
Bagnaia managed to bounce back in style from losing the title lead yesterday and dealt the maximum punishment to Martin’s error. The Indonesian Grand Prix could go down as the point where the 2023 championship swung in Bagnaia’s favour for good.
WHERE THE RACE WAS WON AND LOST
1/27: SENSATIONAL START HAS MARTIN STEAL HOLESHOT – Unreal from Martin who launches away like a rocket from P6 and leads into Turn 1. Vinales is his first chaser and a small gap already opens to Quartararo in third. Espargaro is having a nightmare here, dropping position after position.
3/27: BAGNAIA UP TO THIRD – And there’s the move from Bagnaia who claims third. Quartararo meanwhile runs wide and drops into sixth behind Espargaro and Binder.
5/27: FASTEST LAPS FOR MARTIN – Martin keeps upping the lap time benchmark here and already has around one second of an advantage over Vinales.
11/27: FEISTY SCRAP FOR 6TH – The gaps might be big out front, but there aren’t any in the fight for sixth. Five riders – Oliveira, Miller, Bezzecchi, Di Giannantonio, and Binder – are battling it out here.
13/27: MARTIN CRASHES OUT – Can you believe it?! Martin crashes out of a three-second lead and virtually hands the championship lead back to Bagnaia.
14/27: VINALES LEADS – Martin’s crash has Vinales inherit the lead, at the moment 1.2 seconds ahead of Bagnaia. Quartararo has claimed Espargaro for third and is currently the fastest rider on track.
20/27: BAGNAIA CLAIMS LEAD – Bagnaia picks up Vinales to hit the front. The fastest rider here though is Quartararo in third who has his sight set on a potential win here.
24/27: QUARTARARO FASTEST BUT OUTWITH STRIKING DISTANCE – Quartararo is fastest here, but he just can’t get quite within striking distance and instead runs wide.
27/27: QUARTARARO ATTACKS – Quartararo keeps looking for an attack on Vinales but just can’t make it stick. Bagnaia is the one to profit as he just about looks to have P1 covered.
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