Why Bastianini's British GP fourth place proves he is back to his best

From a first turn contact to fourth place, Enea Bastianini's wingless British GP ride was evidence that he might be back to his race-winning best.

Enea Bastianini, 2022 British Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

Enea Bastianini finished fourth in the 2022 British GP at Silverstone for his best result since he won the French Grand Prix in May. 

The Italian’s race was compromised from the start. He started the British MotoGP at Silvertsone from the middle of the third row in eighth, between Jorge Martin and Marco Bezzecchi. Bezzecchi arrived at the first corner first of the three, but on the outside; Martin arrived third of the three and on the inside; and Bastianini was second to turn one and between his Ducati stablemates.

Martin’s dive to the inside was late, but being the first corner it was nothing out of control. Bezzecchi came off initially worst of the three, because as Martin made contact with Bastianini, it forced the #23 too sit up, which had a knock-on effect to Bezzecchi who was pushed wide. 

Bezzecchi went on to have further contact in Luffield at the end of the first lap with (seemingly, from looking at the helicopter camera) Alex Marquez: “I lost a lot [in this contact], but then I had a very good pace and was able to recover a little bit. 

“As soon as I arrived behind Bastianini and [Brad] Binder I tried to stay with them, but to recover I really put temperature on my rear tyre, so I had to calm down a little bit for some laps. 

“Then in the last lap I was able to push again and I was able to overtake Binder and get another top 10.” 

While Bezzecchi was forced backwards early on, Bastianini and Martin remained embedded in the lead group, although the former was on its fringe.

Martin’s charge forward would come sooner than Bastianini’s, the Italian coming on strong towards the end of the race, as had become his standard earlier in the year, before some more difficult races before the summer break. 

Asked by Visordown whether his Silverstone performance was a sign that he is back to his best, Bastianini said “I hope, yeah. After two races [which were] not very good for me, now is a point to restart and to reset.

“Today I [was] riding very well. The guys have checked the data, and I was fast in [corner] entry like my style always [has been]. We don’t know if we can continue like this, but probably.”

“I was fast,” Bastianini said, “and this is the most important.”

Bastianini was one of several Ducati riders to try the new rear winglets on the Desmosedici in Silverstone. Jack Miller tried them on Saturday, but reported little difference in feeling. Bastianini, on the other hand, noticed a difference.

On Saturday, when asked by Frank Weeink of Ziggo Sport about the new aerodynamics package from Bologna, Bastianini said “I think this new aero helps me a little bit on the braking, and in the other [parts of the track] it’s very close to the old one. It’s not big, the step. [...] It’s a small step.”

But, while the rear wings were added to Bastianini’s Desmosedici for Silverstone, the contact in the first corner with Martin and Bezzecchi cost him the top-left-front wing. 

“[It’s] difficult to manage the bike in this situation,” Bastianini said. “In the first lap I haven’t understood [the] problem of the wings- because I touch Marco [Bezzecchi] and also [Jorge] Martin and I lose something but I don’t see the wings.

“After two laps I understand [the problem] on the bike, every time in the left corner the bike [is a little bit loose].”

After four laps, though, Bastianini had begun to understand the bike in this condition, and was able to regain confidence to ride around the problem.

“After three or four laps I was confident with the bike and [found] some feeling,” Bastianini said. “It was more difficult compared [to having] two wings, but not too much.”

The clockwise nature of Silverstone meant the losing the left wing was preferable for Bastianini. “Probably was more difficult,” he said, when asked by David Emmett of Motomatters whether losing the right wing would have been worse in a track like Silverstone. “I understand this because in the fast corner - number 12, on the left (where Aleix Espargaro crashed in FP4 on Saturday) - I lose a lot of time [compared to] the other riders.” 

He said the feeling of riding in the fast left-handers with the top-left-front wing missing was that the front was continuously pushing and folding, so he was saving front slides all the way through the left-handers. 

Fortunately for Bastianini, the wind was low on Sunday. “If the wind was too high, it [would have been] more difficult for me to ride,” he said. 

Bastianini’s ability to adapt to the lack of a front wing is opposite to the reality faced by many other riders when they have encountered a similar issue.

For example, when Luca Marini lost a wing through contact with Joan Mir in Assen at the 2022 Dutch TT, he described the bike as “unrideable,” with the compromised aerodynamics, Motorcycle Sports reported after the Dutch race. 

Much of the success Marc Marquez has been able to accumulate since his arrival in Grand Prix racing in 2009, and especially since he stepped up to MotoGP in 2013, is attributable to his almost unique ability to feel, control, force and manipulate the front tyre mounted to his motorcycle.

In his peak, Marquez became famed for his front-end saves almost as much as for his determination for, and addiction to, winning, and the success that determination and addiction created.

When Bastianini became Moto2 World Champion in 2020, he pulled off similar-looking saves, indicating a front feeling and technique that was comparable to Marquez. (Personally speaking, the one at Misano’s turn eight, and the one at Valencia’s turn eight come especially to mind.)

Arriving in MotoGP, he brought that front feeling with him, from 765s to 1000s, from Kalex to Ducati, and most importantly from Dunlop to Michelin. 

In September 2021, Mat Oxley wrote for Motor Sport Magazine that Bastianini could be MotoGP’s next “emperor of the elbow,” like Marquez. Oxley spoke to Bastianini’s crew chief, Alberto Giribuola,  who worked with Andrea Dovizioso when the #04 was fighting Marquez for race wins and world titles, and who said that part of Bastianini’s strength is his feeling with the front tyre, and that he uses the front more than the rear, which is why he can be stronger at the end of races than his rivals, because he has more rear grip left. 

When Bastianini won in Le Mans earlier this year, Oxley wrote that Bastianini had mastered “the risky art of taking Michelin’s front slick to the absolute limit.” 

Since Le Mans, Bastianini has not found the podium, and crashes in Italy and Barcelona showed that the line with the Michelin front tyre between relative safety and disaster is never a wide one. 

Bastianini’s pace in the second half of the race on Sunday in Silverstone brought him back to the trigger of his race’s plot: Jorge Martin. Having saved more rear tyre than Martin while the Spaniard was fighting inside the top five, and Bastianini was fighting to get into the top 10, the Gresini Racing rider was able to catch his rival at the end of the race with more rear grip, and out-brake him with superior front-end confidence into Brooklands on the final lap. He was not alongside Martin when they arrived at the braking zone, because Martin had better acceleration out of the fast left-hander of Aintree, where Bastianini's lack of front aero compromised him from entry to exit. So, Bastianini made the difference on the brakes.

The late-race pace that brought him to Martin, the management of a handling situation with his motorcycle that his Ducati stablemates have been, generally speaking, unable to control, and those two things in combination, suggest that Bastianini is back to his best form after the summer break: able to manage the front, while conserving the rear.

Between the end of lap one and the end of lap 20, Bastianini had pulled five seconds on Marco Bezzecchi, with whom he made contact in the first corner, and to whom his Desmosedici GP21 was technically identical, apart from the missing wing.

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