Francesco Bagnaia, the MotoGP rider for Ducati Lenovo Team, emerged victorious in the fiercely competitive Portuguese GP on Sunday, securing the maximum points available by also clinching the historic first Sprint race in the category the day before.
The Saturday Sprint race was created to elevate the MotoGP weekend experience and add an extra layer of excitement. Although it offers only half the points and consists of half the number of laps compared to the main race, it’s no less thrilling. By intensifying the on-track action, the Sprint race provides fans with a more condensed and dynamic format to witness high-octane racing at its finest.
On Saturday, the Portimão circuit witnessed a thrilling sprint race filled with twelve laps of adrenaline-fueled excitement and breathtaking overtakes. Starting from the second position, Francesco Bagnaia quickly claimed the lead but was soon challenged by Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), who kept up the pressure with intense overtaking maneuvers. Despite Martin’s best efforts, problems with his rear tire caused him to lose momentum, allowing Bagnaia to seize the opportunity to reclaim the lead on the final lap and secure a memorable victory.
Bagnaia exhibited his skills on the track on Sunday during the main race as he pulled off a remarkable move to take the lead on the very first lap. However, the race was far from straightforward as Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) trailed closely and made several attempts to overtake. Despite the intense pressure, the Italian maintained his composure and drove flawlessly without making any mistakes, crossing the finish line in first place. With this exceptional victory, Bagnaia further increased his lead in the championship standings, leaving his opponents trailing behind with a considerable margin.
The race, unfortunately, was not devoid of incidents. Marc Marquez, who started the race at pole position for Repsol Honda Team, made a mistake at turn 3, colliding with Jorge Martin and Miguel Oliveira (RNF Aprilia Racing Team). Regrettably, the collision was severe enough to injure Oliveira, who had to be taken to the hospital for a medical examination. Marquez was unable to return to the race and faced heavy boos from the Portuguese crowd. However, on Saturday, the Honda rider kept up with his competitors and secured a podium finish, taking third place, despite being aware of his bike’s disadvantage compared to the other riders.
Anyway, Bagnaia’s outstanding performance at the Portuguese GP resulted in him winning both the Sprint race and the main race, earning him the maximum possible points and securing him a significant lead in the championship, right from the first GP of the season. Meanwhile, top contenders such as Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Marquez had a tough time, failing to accumulate many crucial points. They now need to work hard to make a comeback in the upcoming race, which, like Portimao, is expected to be favorable for the Ducati bikes. It will be intriguing to see how they tackle the upcoming championship challenges.
Now the MotoGP circus packs its bags and leaves for Argentina. Last stop: Gran Premio de la Republica Argentina.
See the Championship standings after the race in Portimao:
MotoGP returns on April 1, with the Argentine GP, at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit.