Reigning MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo now sees Gresini satellite rider Enea Bastianini as Ducati’s unofficial team leader, not factory duo Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller.
Bastianini’s start to the season has been nothing short of amazing, with the sophomore MotoGP racer taking victories at both the opening round in Qatar and last time out in Texas.
He consequently leads the championship after four rounds, and is already 30 points clear of Miller, the best of the five riders on factory-spec Desmosedicis.
That points lead has come not from lucky results but from incredibly impressive racecraft that means Bastianini is able to make his tyres last when none of the other Ducati riders can – something Miller has already admitted is Bastianini’s biggest strength.
Quartararo says he and Yamaha now have to regard Bastianini as a real threat to his title defence.
“I’m taking him really seriously [for the championship],” Quartararo admitted at Portimao ahead of this weekend’s fifth round, the Portuguese Grand Prix.
“Last year he was super-fast but qualifying was bad, I would say.
“But this year he is qualifying good and he is super-fast on the pace. He’s the only Ducati who rides this way.
“Sometimes he’s the only Ducati with the soft front, and for sure his bike is moving a lot but he likes it. He has a different riding style from the others but for sure we have to take him seriously because the way he rides is amazing.
“He was strong in all the races. In Argentina he struggled, but in Indonesia he was also really fast.
“Two he won, one of the others he could have been on the podium, so at the moment I see him like the leader of Ducati.”
The champion is pretty certain of where that pace is coming from as well, admitting that after seeing how well Bastianini finished his rookie season in 2021, with two podiums over the series’ two Misano races, he’s not necessarily surprised to see him stepping it up a level in 2022.
“Last year, the consistency was normal for a rookie,” Quartararo explained of the Italian’s up and down season.
“But you see the way he rode in Misano, at his track, because he is always fast there.
“The way he rode was already super good. He had a reputation s a guy who takes care of the tyres, who always ends super fast, and to be honest I wasn’t expecting him to be the best of Ducati but right now he has made a big step.
“I saw in Austin before the race, I knew he was going to win. You can see the confidence he had in himself and the bike. You can see it from the outside. So I am surprised, but only half surprised.”
While a strong start to the season was expected from Bastianini as he inherited the machine that Bagnaia took to four wins from the final six races of 2021, Quartararo is adamant that this isn’t just a flash in the pan moment at the start of the year.
He believes it will continue consistently until the end of the year even as the 2022 Ducatis improve.
“On the straight they both go super fast,” he joked of both the 2021 bike of Bastianini and the five 2022 machines. “But to be honest on the riding style it’s super difficult to see the difference.
“Sometimes it’s normal that a new bike takes a little bit of time in the first half of the season and that the 2021 will go better and the 2022 will catch up. I have no idea.
“But at the moment I think it’s more Bastianini doing the difference than the bike.”