Motorcycle Racing

The “joker” in Bagnaia’s arsenal for his 2023 MotoGP title fight

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

A double victory in Thailand narrowed the gap between Pramac’s Martin and his factory Ducati counterpart Bagnaia, which started at 27 ahead of the Buriram event.

But Martin was hit with an official warning for running underneath the mandated minimum front tyre pressure limit in the Thailand GP. Should he break this rule again – which came into effect from the British GP onwards – he will be hit with a three-second time penalty.

Ahead of the Malaysian GP on Thursday, Martin brushed off suggestions that this fact could complicate his title charge – noting that his other three GP wins came with legal tyre pressures.

“Well, for sure, this is one mistake because you never want to go under,” he said.

“But at least I got the win and 25 points, so that was the most important thing. But the other wins were with the normal pressure.

“So, we were so, so close to the limit. We have to work in the same style, and if I have some worries or whatever I will have to be a little bit in the slipstream and that’s it.”

Inadvertently, this has handed Bagnaia a small advantage. He is yet to break the tyre pressure rule and therefore will only be given a warning should he do so for the first time in the final three rounds.

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

From next year, riders will be disqualified if they break the tyre pressure rule.

In basic terms, the lower the tyre pressure, the more grip a rider has. The higher it goes, the less they have and the more likely the front is to lock. With current MotoGP bikes, the amount of aerodynamic downforce they produce – as well as wake – puts more energy through the front tyre, causing the pressure to rise.

Bagnaia called this lack of a rules transgression a “joker”, which he concedes will be helpful to have for the Malaysian GP.

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However, he suggests next week’s Qatar GP could be the time to use it, due to the race being run in cooler conditions in the evening.

“Yeah, we know perfectly how it can change being under the limit for all the race because you have a great advantage in terms of braking and entry,” he said on Thursday when asked if he could use the tyre pressure rule to his advantage.

“And being behind is starting to become very difficult. If you start and you are alone, and you have the luck that the pressure goes a bit higher, it’s a big step in front. So, for sure it helps.

“In this race…

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