Bastianini wins season opener in Qatar

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Emotional victory for the late Fausto Gresini’s team: Enea Bastianini (Gresini-Ducati) wins the Qatar Grand Prix and celebrates his maiden MotoGP victory ahead of Brad Binder (KTM) and Pol Espargaro (Honda), who led the race for most of the day. World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) is ninth.

The 22-lap race started at 6 p.m. local time under floodlights, but was still two hours earlier than before. Jorge Martin (Pramac-Ducati) led the grid. Bastianini and Marc Márquez (Honda) completed row one.

Behind them were Jack Miller (Ducati), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and Pol Espargaro. World Champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) started the race from eleventh place on the grid. When it came to tyres, the first two rows opted for the soft tire at the front and rear, with only Bastianini and Aleix Espargaro opting for medium at the rear.

The Honda works duo got off to the best start, leading the field into the first corner. Binder also made up positions and finished third. Things went badly for Ducati: Martin and Miller fell to the bottom of the top 10, Francesco Bagnaia even finished 14th.

The standings after lap one: Pol Espargaro, Marc Márquez, Binder, Mir, Bastianini, Aleix Espargaro, Martin, Quartararo, Miller and Alex Rins (Suzuki). At the beginning of the second lap, Márquez launched an attack on his teammate, but had to back off. In this early phase nobody was able to break away.

The race pace was at high 1:54 times. Nobody could make big differences. After five laps, eight riders were still within two seconds, with Rins at the bottom of the group. Behind them, Quartararo fought to catch up. Bagnaia had at least fought his way up to tenth place.

At the beginning of the sixth lap, Binder took over second place from Márquez, who had misbraked in turn 1. That gave Pol Espargaro some breathing space at the top. Shortly thereafter, Bastianini Márquez also settled down and was only fourth.

Further down the field came the first crash of the race: Marco Bezzecchi’s VR46 Ducati stranded in the gravel bed of the final corner. Brand colleague Miller also seemed to have problems. The Australian fell far behind and headed for the pits.

The leading group spread a little: Pol Espargaro held the lead in front of Binder, Bastianini and Márquez. There was a small gap to Aleix Espargaro. He followed Me. His Suzuki teammate Rins was more than a second behind.

After ten laps, the field continued to decrease: Alex Márquez (LCR-Honda) had to retire after a crash. A little later, Miguel Oliveira (KTM) also crashed. Bagnaia and Martin retired after the former lost control of the front wheel while attempting to overtake and swept his brand colleague away.

At the front, Pol Espargaro started to break free. The Honda driver’s lead increased by more than a second. Behind them, Bastianini and Binder dueled for second place. Márquez stayed behind in fourth, but didn’t launch an attack yet.

Once past Binder, Bastanini used the open space and squeezed Pol Espargaro’s lead again. Binder had to let go while Marquez was under increasing pressure from Aleix Espargaro. He had been able to catch up and finally braked past Márquez to take fourth place.

Similar to Bastianini, Aleix Espargaro seemed to benefit from the medium rear tyre, which allowed more performance in the closing stages than the soft tire of the competition. Bastianini managed to take the lead for the first time at the start of the fourth to last lap.

Pol Espargaro then misbraked in Turn 1 and fell behind Binder in third place, so that Bastianini’s lead was suddenly more than a second. Although Binder came threateningly close at the end, it wasn’t enough for an attack, so Bastianini triumphed.

Tears flowed in the box of the Italian, who drives for the team of Fausto Gresini, who died of Corona in 2021, as did Bastianini himself. It is his first win in the premier class after coming third twice in his rookie season.

Binder celebrated KTM’s first podium finish in Qatar in second, while Pol Espargaro saved third place ahead of brother Aleix Espargaro. Marquez had to settle for fourth place. The Suzuki drivers Mir and Rins, who finished sixth and seventh, had also promised a little more.

Johann Zarco (Pramac-Ducati) caught Quartararo on the finish line thanks to his Ducati power and finished eighth. Only seven thousandths of a second separated the two. Takaaki Nakagami (LCR-Honda) completed the top 10.

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