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Analysis
MotoGP Dutch GP

The inverse Marquez trait that helped Bagnaia’s Assen MotoGP domination

Francesco Bagnaia utterly controlled the 2024 Dutch Grand Prix weekend, leading all laps of both races having topped all but one session on his way to a double win. Why the MotoGP champion was so dominant was a question posed often, with one trait hinting at the reason

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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Francesco Bagnaia’s double victory at the Italian Grand Prix topped the MotoGP news cycle for all of about 12 hours before Ducati enacted rider market madness. From the moment Motorsport.com first reported Marc Marquez had been given the nod for the factory team, all discussion has been around the dynamics within the Italian manufacturer surrounding a decision that was always going to rankle the Bagnaia camp.

Bagnaia put up a good front across the Assen round as he brushed away questions asking for his thoughts on this and how his domination of both races must have been a nice ego boost given the preceding discourse over his incoming team-mate. Clearly, though, the 2024 Dutch Grand Prix was a statement from the reigning double world champion.

For the first time in his MotoGP career, Bagnaia topped the opening practice of a weekend. Usually under the radar on Fridays, he set his stall out early, before in the second session setting a new lap record.

He topped final practice on Saturday morning, before taking pole with another new lap record of 1m30.540s – a lap he was so confident in that he bailed into his pits with several minutes left in the Q2 session. He led every lap of the 13-tour sprint to beat Jorge Martin by 2.355s and did the same in the 26-lap grand prix to beat the championship leader by 3.676s.

At no point was Bagnaia anything but impressive at Assen. He took fastest lap in the sprint and set the best lap of the grand prix six times – the latter, a 1m31.866s, coming 12 laps in. It was with the setting of this lap that Bagnaia brought his lead over Martin to over a second for the first time and it would never again shrink below this.

The only 'blot' on his copybook came in the 10-minute warm-up session, topped by Fabio Di Giannantonio. But that mattered little as he romped to a third-successive Dutch GP victory – becoming the first rider to do so since Mick Doohan in the late 1990s.

Bagnaia utterly dominated the Dutch GP weekend and was only headed in the inconsequential warm-up

Bagnaia utterly dominated the Dutch GP weekend and was only headed in the inconsequential warm-up

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“It’s a really great moment,” Bagnaia said when asked if he feared mistakes on a weekend in which he was being pegged as the rider to beat. “But also in 2021, last part of the season, 2022 in the middle of the season, last year at the start.

“Many times it happened to me that I was feeling fantastic with the bike. Any moment I think I know perfectly our potential, I know if we work well, we can fight every time for a win and we can have some race weekends like this.

“This is giving me a lot of motivation. When you start a race that everyone says you have to win, for the pace, for what you did all the weekend, a second position is already a loss. In terms of pressure, it’s more, but I didn’t care and I just enjoyed everything. I love this track; I love going fast and with this kind of feeling in this track, it wasn’t a problem. I just enjoyed everything.”

Being fast through right corners is an inverse trait of Marquez’s, whose anti-clockwise strength is famed and will likely put him in the picture for victory at the German GP this weekend on the quirky left-leaning Sachsenring

Clearly, Assen is a circuit that suits Bagnaia and the Ducati. But the question as to why Baganaia was so strong was posed to a number of riders across the weekend. Marquez – who crashed out of the sprint and was demoted to 10th in the GP due to a tyre pressure penalty – noted that the world champion was particularly strong through the fast right-handers.

“He’s flying all the track,” the eight-time world champion said. “I mean, he’s super-fast here. I already see last year and two years ago that he was super-fast, but especially on those fast right corners he is incredibly fast.”

Being fast through right corners is an inverse trait of Marquez’s, whose anti-clockwise strength is famed and will likely put him in the picture for victory at the German GP this weekend on the quirky left-leaning Sachsenring. Looking at the best sector times in Q2, you can see the strength Marquez is talking about.

Sector 1 (Start/finish – exit T5)

1. Martin – 29.828s
2. Bagnaia – 29.871s
3. Vinales – 29.909s

Bagnaia's prowess through fast right-handers was identified by Marquez as one of his biggest strengths, which the sector times support

Bagnaia's prowess through fast right-handers was identified by Marquez as one of his biggest strengths, which the sector times support

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Sector 2 (Approach to T6 – entry T8)

1. Bagnaia – 13.335s
2. Martin – 13.436s
3. Binder – 13.444s

Sector 3 (T8 – entry T12)

1. Martin – 26.492s
2. Bagnaia – 26.540s
3. A Marquez – 26.540s

Sector 4 (T12 – finish)

1. Bagnaia – 20.794s
2. Martin – 20.885s
3. Vinales – 20.886s

Most of sector one is slow and medium-speed rights, before flicking left through the Turn 5 hairpin. The short sector two is characterised by the ultra-fast fast approach to the Turn 6 right, which sees riders creep over 300km/h (186mph) in sixth gear before rolling off and knocking back a gear, taking the apex at around 250km/h (155.3mph) then flicking it left into Turn 7.

Sector four features two flicks right at full pelt, before heading left and then into a right/left/right chicane to end the lap. Notably, in sectors two and four, Bagnaia led the way.

A factor that kept Pramac’s Martin, he noted, from fighting Bagnaia for victory in both races was his lack of speed through the fast rights of Turn 6 and Turn 12. How the Ducati works Michelin’s 2024 tyres also appears to be something that gave Bagnaia an edge at Assen.

Bagnaia’s domination at Assen has put him just 10 points behind Martin heading to this week’s ninth round of the campaign in Germany. And now seems like the time where the momentum has shifted in the Italian’s favour.

Martin has been the leading man for much of the year so far, but now has Bagnaia closing in

Martin has been the leading man for much of the year so far, but now has Bagnaia closing in

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Winning five of the eight grands prix run so far, Bagnaia wasn’t knocked off the top perch of the podium throughout June’s four races at Mugello and Assen. Of the 284 race laps held in 2024, Bagnaia has led 154 of them; Martin has headed 95, while the next highest is Vinales on 22.

Martin’s points-per-round average sits at 25 after eight rounds, but Bagnaia is now on 24. Since Barcelona, Bagnaia’s average has been 12 PPR with Martin sitting on nine. Since crashing out of the lead of the Barcelona sprint, Bagnaia has bounced back emphatically and has now matched Casey Stoner’s career tally of 23 Ducati grand prix wins.

With all the talk pre-Assen surrounding Bagnaia’s future team-mate, the 2024 Dutch GP was a timely reminder why Ducati locked him down through to the end of 2026 before the season began and why he won’t be so easily pushed over when Marquez arrives in the box.

Recent form suggests it cannot be guaranteed that Marquez will blow Baganaia away when he joins the factory Ducati team in 2025

Recent form suggests it cannot be guaranteed that Marquez will blow Baganaia away when he joins the factory Ducati team in 2025

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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