Was ‘angry’ Acosta Bagnaia’s secret Barcelona MotoGP weapon?


Was Pedro Acosta the secret weapon of Catalan Grand Prix champion Pico Bagnaia?

The rising star followed up his feisty but futile French Grand Prix outing with a feisty but slightly less fruitful Catalan Grand Prix outing, crashing on lap 11 while chasing leader Jorge Martin.

He came back to salvage three points to finish 13th, while Martin, having successfully weathered Acosta's onslaught, proved unable to resist Bagnaia in the final laps of the race on the tire-chewing Barcelona circuit.

So how much did Acosta win the race for Bagnaia, and should he have won it for himself?

Collision

Acosta was one of four riders in the field who chose the soft rear tire – in theory faster but less durable – rather than the preferred medium rear tire, and his speed conveyed a sense of urgency.

But he insisted after the race that he was not trying to push for the lead, and Marc Márquez's rise from 14th to third on the soft tires was at least evidence that the tire could hold up reasonably well.

“Maybe Marquez was a little bit frantic, maybe because he was at the back of his front group and, let's say, he lost more time than yesterday to get past the guys. But for me [the soft] “It was the right tire to win,” Acosta said.

“I wouldn't say I would have beaten Pico and Martin, but to be honest with the speed we had and the gap I had – for example, between Pico who was third and Marc at the back of the group.” – Let's say in the worst case I'm P3.”

This is clearly accurate, as even just subtracting the time Acosta lost in the crash from his race time puts him roughly third, not counting the time lost fighting his way through the lower reaches of the pack.

While Acosta shied away from suggesting he could have won — suggesting that would be disrespectful to Bagnaia — he clearly did not feel it was a lost cause.

This was part of what bothered him so much about the incident. The other part was of uncertain origin.

“We had a problem with the front of the bike, and it's not clear at the moment, it's difficult to say why,” Acosta explained, offering no real clarification other than the fact that the problem was not related to the tyres.

“Again, the bike was a podium bike. That's why I'm so angry because I don't really like putting a podium in the bin. But the bike was very competitive.”

In Gas Gas's post-race press release, no issue was mentioned, and team principal Nico Goyon simply said “We know it's easy to crash here.”

Benefits of bajnaya

But by that point, Acosta had already done his homework for Bagnaia – which is not just a superficial reading of the race, but something Martin himself acknowledged as a possible explanation too.

Martin wanted to lead, so Acosta's pressure forced the championship leader to up the early pace after both had made their way through Bagnaia.

Martin's first lap in the lead was lap 5, but his first lap in the 1:40 second range instead of 1:39 second was lap 11. By contrast, Bagnaia ran in the 1:40 second range from lap five to lap eight , slower than Martin ever but one of the nine flying laps corresponding to Acosta's crash.

But while Martin's speed after that showed something of a linear decline, Bagnaia maintained his speed in roughly the same range until he staggered and overtook his rival.

“Maybe with Pedro behind me, I was pushing too much,” Martin admitted in the MotoGP Championship After knowledge Displays.

“Because I wanted to stay in the lead, and it was very close.

“And when Biko caught me, I had nothing else to fight with. I had one last shot with another [engine] map, but that was the end of my race. “I destroyed the back tire, and from that point on I had no front or rear.”

“I decided to stay as consistent as possible and not push at the start like Martin and Pedro,” Bagnaia said on the same programme.

“It was very difficult. When they passed me, I just tried to do one lap with a little more pressure, but I saw that for the tires it was a disaster.

“After 10 laps I started to see that my strategy was working. I was a bit scared [to begin with]”But it worked.”

How important is Acosta?

It's also fair to wonder if Martin using so much rubber to keep Acosta at bay was just a different path to the potential outcome.

Had he allowed Acosta to pass – thus getting closer to Bagnaia at that stage of the race – or had he stayed behind Bagnaia at the start, it would have saved him more tires but lost valuable position on the track. Martin's comments suggest that the expectation and intention was to lead the race, so front tire pressures may have been adjusted accordingly – and running in traffic would probably have been unacceptable anyway.

But also, tire-chewing racing like this isn't really Martin's forte, historically. It's bagnaya. He seemed to have more race speed than Martin for most of the weekend, especially in the sprint, so he was always the favorite for Sunday's Mano-Mano duel.

Martin has aces up his sleeve, and in the end he still left Barcelona having scored more than Bagnaia, with defeat in Sunday's duel by 10 points should be easy enough to accept.

“When I saw we had eight and nine seconds [to third place]“It didn't make sense to try to fight,” Martin said. “I can do it. I can crash. So second place is better, 20 points.”

He's right. He remains in a strong position to win this year's championship because of that.



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