Bastianini ‘not pressured’ by talk of Martin taking his Ducati MotoGP seat

Four-time grand prix winner Bastianini was chosen over Martin to take Jack Miller’s place at the factory Ducati squad for this year, following his better performances in 2022 with Gresini Racing.

But Bastianini has endured a torrid campaign, which has been blighted by injury and a difficulty in adapting his riding style to the 2023 bike.

With Martin just 11 points behind Bagnaia in the championship battle, there have been suggestions he could be swapped with Bastianini for 2024 if he wins the title – with Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti confirming at the Malaysian Grand Prix that this is a possibility.

Bastianini is enjoying his best weekend since last year’s Malaysian GP, after qualifying third and finishing fourth in the sprint.

Asked by if it is tough to focus on improving his own form while the Martin rumours persist, Bastianini said: “Well, Jorge has done a really good season compared to me.

“I have made a very disastrous season, but also I’m still really unlucky from the start.

“In Portimao I was competitive and probably my season can be better without this injury (after he suffered a broken shoulder in a sprint collision).

“You know, we can’t speak about this because I know my potential but probably sometimes if you try to do something more, you don’t arrive at your target, you have to come back a little bit.

“Now I have come back, I understand what is the problem. I haven’t pressure from this case, I’m only happy about my performance of today and to have fun on my bike.”

Bastianini has been working with a thumb-operated rear brake at Sepang to improve his corner-entry on the 2023-spec Ducati. This, along with changes to the bike’s engine braking settings, has allowed him to make a breakthrough in form.

“Yeah, we have changed also the engine brake compared to the other races,” he explained.

“We have made a big difference of set-up of the engine brake compared to all my standards, compared to last year.

“I like to go fast, but also I need to stop the bike and was my main problem this year.

“And this solution with the rear brake here has helped me a lot to understand how I have to do the corner.

“It’s more difficult when you are in the race, when there are other riders in front, especially in the first corner.

“I haven’t understood why it was difficult but after two, three laps I have understood how to use this.”

Bastianini came close to taking third away from Francesco Bagnaia in Saturday’s sprint in Malaysia, but says he elected against it given his team-mate’s championship situation.

“Yeah, a good battle with the two KTMs today,” Bastianini added.

“[Brad] Binder is really hard to overtake him because he brakes really late. I tried from Turn 1 to Turn 2, and also later in the change of direction with Jack [Miller].

“When I arrived to Pecco, I also made the decision to stay there because it was better for me, better for him, better for the team.

“Also because it was dangerous, also the front tyre was critical. I saw a problem like mine on Pecco’s bike.

“For tomorrow we need to solve this problem because for the long race it could be a problem.” 

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