Jorge Martin piled the pressure on title rival Francesco Bagnaia in Friday’s practice for the season-ending Valencia MotoGP with the world championship leader failing to make the top ten and needing to take part in qualifying.
Italian Bagnaia goes into the final weekend of a thrilling MotoGP season in Spain with the defence of his crown still in the balance against sole rival Martin.
On Friday, the contest between the two Ducati riders began to heat up when Martin followed Bagnaia out of the pits for his final run in bright sunshine.
Ducati-Pramac’s Martin, who is 21 points behind the reigning world champion while there are 37 points left this weekend on the Ricardo-Tormo circuit, took second place in the session dominated by his compatriot Maverick Vinales of Aprilia.
Martin, who saw a large part of his chances of winning a first world title evaporate last Sunday by finishing tenth in the Qatar GP, tailed his opponent very closely.
His mind games, combined with several yellow flags following falls at the end of the session, worked since Bagnaia was trapped and unable to improve his time in the final minutes as he is accustomed to doing.
“There was tension. Following someone’s wheel is not something I like, but I had to try to pressure him in one way or another to complicate his life and I managed to do it because I made him nervous and he will have to go through Q1,” Martín explained.
Bagnaia placed 15th on his Ducati-Lenovo and will need to finish in one of the first two places in Q1 on Saturday morning to have the right to fight straight away for pole position.
“It was not an easy day, I was in difficulty. We will study the data collected today to improve tomorrow (Saturday),” the Italian said.
“Jorge (Martin) had to try to do something today but he should rather concentrate on his work and try to improve because he knows he has to win both races.”
The championship leader will have as his main opponents Spaniard Alex Marquez (Ducati-Gresini), France’s Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha) and Italians Luca Marini (Ducati-VR46) and Enea Bastianini (Ducati).
However, it seems unlikely that his teammate and compatriot will take the risk of depriving him of a qualification in Q2.
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