A week on from the title lead swinging from Bagnaia to Pramac’s Martin and back to Bagnaia at the Indonesian GP, 18 points splits to the pair coming to Phillip Island.
Bagnaia lost his championship lead after struggling to 13th in qualifying at Mandalika and recovered only to eighth in the sprint, while Martin won.
And while he retook the lead by 18 points with the Sunday win after Martin crashed, Bagnaia once again faces a Q1 battle after ending Friday practice at Phillip Island outside of the crucial top 10 places.
Bagnaia, just as he did in Indonesia, struggled for pace on softer rubber, especially with traction – which led to a 0.2s difference between himself and fourth-placed Martin in the last corner alone.
“We started with the medium rear and everything was great, the pace was one of the best with this spec,” Bagnaia, who was over fourth tenths slower than Martin on Friday in Australia, said.
“But when we put on the soft rear for the time attack, I started having problems.
“Maybe the best strategy was to start on the soft like almost all the other riders, to analyse the reaction of the soft.
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team
“The strategy [we chose] maybe was the best one for the race, but I’m struggling a lot on acceleration and the entrance of fast corners.
“My bike is too aggressive, very nervous. For example, from the last corner to the finish line, I am losing two tenths to Martin, which is unbelievable considering… I am missing traction.
“This was more or less the issue, but like Mandalika the feeling with the bike is not that bad. This is strange.”
The grand prix at Phillip Island has been brought forward to Saturday afternoon due to the threat of extreme wind on Sunday.
This makes Bagnaia’s Q1 appearance a vital moment in his weekend, with Martin now able to overhaul him in the championship on Saturday with full points on offer.
If he can exit Q1 and put himself in a solid position on the grid, Bagnaia – who came from 13th to win in Indonesia – believes he has a competitive race bike.
“It’s strange that we moved from one circuit to another with the same setting, more or less, and for me it’s not working,” he added.
“It’s not the first time, it’s more or less all season that we struggle on Friday, Saturday it’s better and Sunday we are the fastest.
“In that case, we have one day less to be the fastest, but at this track it’s more difficult to have a clear advantage.
“Looking at the pace we did this morning and the pace I had this afternoon, I was one of the most competitive in terms of consistency.
“I was using the medium, more or less all the others used the soft.
“For me our work was better than the others, we just have to improve on starting [the weekend] with a better feeling.
“Today was difficult to be consistent with the rear tyre. The medium is the hard from last year.
“But in 2019 I started 13th or 14th and I finished fourth, and I think I’m a bit better than I was in 2019. Comebacks are possible here.”