The reigning world champion came to Qatar with a chance of wrapping up the 2023 crown in the grand prix, if he was able to outscore Pramac rival Martin by 23 points across both races.
However, after Martin won the sprint and Bagnaia could only manage fifth as he battled a lack of rear grip, the gap between the pair is only seven points and the title fight will go to the finale in Valencia next week.
Bagnaia said he had a feeling with his Ducati ahead of the sprint that made him think he could fight for the victory, but instead found himself “struggling to have normal pace”.
“Honestly, all the weekend I was having a different feeling – a feeling to consider our potential for a victory,” he said. “But then in the race, as soon as I started, my feeling was different.
“I was struggling a lot to push, I was struggling a lot to have a normal pace – something I was showing already this morning, with some consistency.
“So, I’m quite angry with what happened because losing seven points like this is a pity. I’m just looking forward to the race tomorrow because I think in a normal situation I can be faster.
“My feeling with the rear grip was really low. I was struggling to exit [the corners] in the same way as the guys I had in front.
“As soon as I was opening [the throttle], I was sliding a lot, spinning a lot and this was different compared to the rest of the weekend.”
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing
Martin had endured a difficult Friday in Qatar as he also battled a lack of grip, and admitted he went into Saturday on the back foot in terms of race preparation.
But, from Saturday afternoon’s practice, he says he knew he could win the sprint – though concedes he had some doubts about his start.
With the potential to now take the lead in the championship on Sunday, Martin admits the grand prix marks “a big, big day” for both himself and Bagnaia.
“Well, for sure the target is to recover points,” Martin said. “We did it and I’m happy. We need to do it tomorrow.
“Tomorrow is a big, big day for all of us – for Pecco and for me. Depending on how it goes tomorrow, it will be a different story in Valencia.
“So, hopefully we can recover some points, even if it’s one. It will be crucial to be close in Valencia. I think we are in a good position at the moment – I was strong today and we can do it tomorrow.”
Martin made two aggressive overtakes on Bagnaia in the sprint that resulted in contact on both occasions.
The Pramac rider feels he wasn’t doing anything crazy, but concedes he was having to take some risks in completing the moves.
“Yeah, well the start is always a big risk, but I saw I was arriving in front of Pecco at the first corner,” Martin said. “So, it was really like Thailand last corner on the second-last lap. It was similar, I had the inside so he could do nothing.
“Also, the other move, it’s a difficult place [Turn 6] to overtake but I saw I had more speed.
“So, I have to try and he kept the outside. I think it wasn’t that risky, maybe the situation when he closed the line you have the risk.
“But it wasn’t a crazy move, I think. I took more risk when I saw [Fabio] Di Giannantonio coming super strong, on the last lap I pushed a lot. But every point counts, so I think it was a good choice to push and win today.”
When asked for his opinion on the moves, Bagnaia simply replied: “I think it’s cool it was him who was doing that, so it’s opening a situation that I like.”