The 2023 MotoGP title battle remains extremely close after the Malaysian Grand Prix, though the day belonged to Enea Bastianini. Having struggled all year with injury and form upon his step up to the factory Ducati squad, Bastianini bounced back emphatically with a dominant win at Sepang.
The result comes as he faces rumours of potentially losing his seat to Pramac’s Jorge Martin next year. Not even a tyre pressure rule breach could dampen Bastianini’s spirits, though it reignited the debate over this regulation.
Francesco Bagnaia, meanwhile, got the better of his title rival Martin in the grand prix after claiming a first pole since Barcelona, but could only convert this to third. With Martin struggling to fourth, the championship gap stands at just 14 points in Bagnaia’s favour with two rounds to go.
Elsewhere, there was more news at Honda as Luca Marini entered the frame – along with several others briefly – as favourite to replace Marc Marquez. Aprilia had to dump a clutch system it had been using after rival complaints, while manufacturer concessions aimed at pegging back Ducati and aiding the Japanese marques are in the works.
After another busy weekend to begin the final stage of the season, here are 10 things we learned from the 2023 Malaysian Grand Prix.
1. The Beast is back in town
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Bastianini took his first win for over a year
The last time we saw Enea Bastianini on the top step of a MotoGP podium, he was decked in Gresini colours and was celebrating his fourth victory of the season.
By that point, his promotion to the factory Ducati squad had been confirmed. He’d beaten Jorge Martin to the seat, the Pramac rider struggling last year with Ducati’s aggressive 2022-spec engine – the same motor Francesco Bagnaia rather shrewdly ditched ahead of the campaign.
Bastianini was expected to be a big rival to Bagnaia in 2023 and fight for the championship. But a broken shoulder in a sprint crash ruled him out of five grands prix, while he sat out three more later in the year after suffering multiple fractures in a Turn 1 pile-up he instigated in Barcelona.
During the relatively little time he did have on the bike, he’d struggled with getting the Ducati to stop in the way that made him so fast in 2022. However, a breakthrough with the set-up of his bike’s engine braking, as well as the introduction of a thumb-operated rear brake, vaulted him up the…