Malaysian GP 2022 Preview: First deciding round for Bagnaia  

The premier class of motorcycle racing is back this weekend with the MotoGP´s Malaysian GP 2022, the 19th and penultimate round of the season ahead of the grand finale in Valencia.

The Sepang Circuit could bear witness this weekend to the coronation of this season’s World Champion. ‘Pecco’ Bagnaia (Ducati) arrives in the Asian country as the brand-new leader of the standings for his first opportunity to win the coveted title. 

The Italian pilot took the lead (+14 points) with third place in Australia last weekend. Fourteen points behind him are now the demoted Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and twenty-seven points down in third is Aleix Espargaró (Aprilia).

Bagnaia’s ascent was also aided by his rivals’ bad luck in the past round, with the Frenchman crashing out of the Australian GP and the Spaniard managing only a ninth place following issues with his rear tire. Espargaró is actually hanging onto the title fight by the skin of his teeth. 

The Turinese needs to outscore Quartararo by 11 points to seal the title next Sunday.

Bagnaia, favourite 

Looking at their most recent performances, Bagnaia will be the enemy number one to beat out of the three title hopefuls at the Asian round. His consistency during the second part of the season is undeniable. 

Starting in the Dutch round, he has only missed the podium on one occasion (a crash in Japan) out of eight races. With the exception of that blemish in Motegi, he has grown increasingly confident with the season and has harvested one success after another. 

On top of this, the configuration of the Malaysian track, which is situated 40 km outside of Kuala Lumpur, is likely to play in his favour. Its two long straights are ideal for the red missile’s extraordinary top speed and should compensate for the other, more twisty sections of the circuit. In addition, the #63 will count on the help of another seven Ducaties, prepared to get in the way of his rivals and rob them of some invaluable points. 

There is a chance, however, for some unexpected guests to crash the title party, and become decisive on the outcome of the whole championship. Some names stand out including those of Álex Rins (Suzuki), Marc Márquez (Honda) and Jack Miller (Ducati). Spurred on by his unexpected victory at Philip Island, the Spaniard arrives in Malaysia in great spirits. 

Similarly, the six-time champion will want to prove to the world that his recent second-place finish was not a fluke. More recovered each day, Márquez will aspire to finish in the top three. 

Along with them, Miller, who was crashed into by Álex Márquez at his home race, hopes to redeem himself this time around. Prior to that incident, he had taken a victory and a second place, so he will be hoping to resume his streak of good results. 

Quartararo and Aleix against Bagnaia  

Bagnaia’s main threats, however, are Quartararo and Aleix Espargaró. They are both running out of time and need to defeat him in order to keep their title bids alive. With just two races & 50 points at stake, their strategy can only consist of a decisive and ruthless attack. All of their efforts will concentrate on avoiding a repeat of the first and only Ducati title in history (Casey Stoner 2007). 

The sensations and latest performances of both runners-up, however, are not very promising. Quartararo is in free fall. He has squandered a 91-points advantage since Germany, something unheard of in the speciality.

This, added to the blatant inferiority of his M1 in relation to the GP22, has made him lose morale. The Frenchman has finished outside the points three times in the last four races, the last two consecutive. As the worthy 2021 World Champion, he must get over it and react now at the MotoGP´s Malaysian GP 2022. 

Things are even worse at the Spaniard’s box. His Aprilia has dropped severely in performance during the second part of the campaign following recurrent issues with its tyres. In Australia, a slippery rear compound prevented him from finishing above a very discrete ninth place. 

Images of MotoGP´s Malaysian GP 2022: MotoGP.

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