Fabio Di Giannantonio took a career-first MotoGP victory at the Grand Prix of Qatar.
The Gresini Ducati rider stalked championship leader Francesco Bagnaia for most of the race and made a move stick in the late stages to take the chequered flag first, beating Bagnaia who nevertheless made up good ground on title rival Jorge Martin.
“What to say … it’s been an incredible weekend,” Di Giannantonio said in parc ferme. “The race was just unbelievable. I had an awesome pace when I was behind Pecco [Bagnaia] and I knew that I could have something more. I was struggling a little with the front, but then I saw that he was also making little mistakes – maybe this is my opportunity, and we did it!
“This is a real redemption, a real revenge. First for myself and also for everybody who doubted me. But now we did it, we are MotoGP winners.”
While Bagnaia came home in second, his championship rival Martin had a nightmare that saw him finish in a meagre tenth place. With one round to go, 21 points separate the duo.
“I’m very happy,” Bagnaia said post-race. “We managed to do a perfect start, I was alone at the front, and then I tried to push and make a gap, but Diggia [Di Giannantonio] was incredible today. I tried to manage the tyres, but unluckily, I got sucked in by the slipstream under braking into Turn 1 and went totally wide. But I’m happy with the result.
“We managed to open a lot the gap from Jorge [Martin] and arriving in Valencia is very important.”
Bagnaia took the holeshot from fourth on the grid as the lights went out and held on to the position for the better part of the race. Punches were exchanged behind him and Di Giannantonio established himself as first chaser.
The duo swiftly broke away from the field and stretched their gap up to more than five seconds at the crucial stages.
On Lap 19, Di Giannantonio attacked for the lead and made the move stick. Though Bagnaia tried to claim his opponent on the cut-back, there was no way past the Gresini Ducati.
Disaster almost struck going into Lap 20 when Bagnaia was inches away from running into Di Giannantonio’s rear tyre and went well wide. However, the championship leader managed to stay on and both riders headed on towards the chequered flag without further trouble.
In the battle for third, Luca Marini prevailed over Maverick Vinales, Brad Binder, and Alex Marquez who had been exchanging punches all race.
“Fantastic; it’s been an amazing weekend that I really needed,” Marini said. “It’s just a pity that I lost a lot of time with Alex [Marquez] and Brad [Binder] because I think I had the pace to stay with Fabio [Di Giannantonio] and Pecco [Bagnaia] and maybe try to win at the end of the race.
“But anyway, it’s a great podium and a great weekend. Thank you to my team – we are working very well, so let’s enjoy and also do our best in Valencia.”
It was the polar opposite for title contender Martin whose day went from bad to worse. Already at the start, wheelspin hampered his get-off and he dropped positions down into eighth.
The only way was down from there for the Spaniard who seemingly struggled with both set-up and grip. In the end, Martin just about managed to hang on to a top 10 position, beating Marc Marquez to the line.
With 21 points now between Bagnaia and Martin and only one round to go, the Italian has one hand on the trophy. All will be decided in Valencia next weekend.
RIDER OF THE DAY – FABIO DI GIANNANTONIO
It’s occupation: unemployed for Di Giannantonio at the moment and he made a formidable case for his remainder in the premier class today.
Having already stated in the pre-event press conference that he was in Qatar to win, Di Giannantonio made truth to his words and bagged his first-ever MotoGP victory with a flawless performance.
Indeed, the Italian’s form has been pointing upwards pretty much since losing his Gresini ride to Marc Marquez. With a victory added to his names, his stocks have never been stronger.
WHERE THE RACE WAS WON AND LOST
1/22: BAGNAIA TAKES LEAD, MARTIN SPINS UP – It’s a dream start for Bagnaia who shoots into the lead followed by Marini and Di Giannantonio. Meanwhile, Martin has a nightmare and wheelspin that sees him drop into eighth.
5/22: PUNCHES EXCHANGED IN TOP GROUP – Positions are chopping and changing within the front quintet. Unbothered though, Bagnaia sits at the helm of the group and, so far, isn’t getting involved and instead, with the riders behind him occupied, takes the chance to pull away.
11/22: NIGHTMARE FOR MARTIN – Martin is a sitting duck here. Vinales makes a move stick and, subsequently, M Marquez also dives past. Quartararo, Zarco, and Miller are right behind.
13/22: HEADSHAKES FROM MARTIN – Martin is getting visibly frustrated now with furious headshakes here there and everywhere. Miller too is now past the Ducati rider.
14/22: TWO RIDER SHOWDOWN – Bagnaia and Di Giannantonio have edged out a good advantage over Binder and A Marquez. No one can match their pace.
16/22: VINALES IN PODIUM CONTENTION – Vinales has caught the group battling for third, joining Binder, A Marquez, and Marini. They trail the front duo by more than four seconds but are a good bit ahead of their chasers.
19/22: DI GIANNANTONIO TAKES THE LEAD – He doesn’t care about Mapping 8 as Di Giannantonio makes a move on Bagnaia and takes the lead. Bagnaia tries to get him on the cut-back, but he has to settle for second.
20/22: BAGNAIA WIDE – Bagnaia almost runs into Di Giannantonio going into Turn 1 but only runs well wide in the end. This doesn’t feel like a battle that Bagnaia needs to fight – or risk he needs to take.
22/22: DI GIANNANTONIO WINS IN QATAR – Di Giannantonio takes the chequered flag for his first-ever MotoGP victory. Bagnaia comes home in second ahead of Marini. Martin just hangs on to 10th, aided by an assault on M Marquez coming from Zarco on the final lap that almost got them both wiped out.