Bagnaia ‘better than expected’ but Fernandez ruled out

Ducati MotoGP team boss Paolo Ciabatti has told The Race that today’s Portuguese Grand Prix will be an exercise in damage limitation for 2021 championship runner-up Pecco Bagnaia, after the Italian suffered damage to his right shoulder in a punishing qualifying crash on Saturday at the Portimao circuit.

Francesco Bagnaia Ducati MotoGP Portimao

Bagnaia was one of a handful of riders to venture out almost immediately on slick tires in Q1, the first time all weekend that riders had the chance to try them after a series of wet and cold practice sessions at the coastal Algarve circuit. The plan backfired, however, as he became one of a handful of riders to hit a wet patch and fall heavily, with his right shoulder taking the worst of the impact.

A slick tire gamble that didn’t pay off! 🥺

After this crash in #MotoGP Q1, @PeccoBagnaia will be reviewed tomorrow morning 🤞#PortugueseGP 🇵🇹

— MotoGP™🏁 (@MotoGP) April 23, 2022

Relegated to the very back of the grid in the last place after crashing on his out lap and failing to set a time, it means that Bagnaia has got a big challenge ahead of himself in the race, though, and despite a relatively positive warm-up session where he finished 12th, Ciabatti says he’s aware that limiting further damage to Bagnaia’s title aspirations is all he can hope for.

“He’s OK, better than we expected,” the team boss told The Race. “For sure he has pain in the shoulder, and especially he is losing quite a bit in the last sector where it is all right corners and obviously his shoulder is stressed more. But he is fine and he says he can do the race.

“He obviously didn’t push because he has no experience with the slick tires because he crashed immediately yesterday, but he is confident to be able to do the race. As you could see, the last laps were quite good, so let’s see.

“Obviously it will be to try and limit the damage considering the situation, but I would say it is better than expected.

Francesco Bagnaia Ducati MotoGP Portimao

“He will get some painkillers and now he is putting some ice on the shoulder to be in decent condition. Clearly the race distance is another question mark, but what can you do?

“Starting from last position on the grid you can just try to climb as many positions as possible and bring home as many points as possible. That’s really the target today.”

That’s a far cry away from only five months ago at the same circuit when the Ducati rider took victory from pole position to make it four wins from the final six races of the season, but it adds further pain to what has been a taxing start to the season for Bagnaia/ Scoring only 23 points from four races, he now lies some 28 points behind championship leader Enea Bastianini, who has ironically won 50% of 2022’s races on Bagnaia’s hand-me-down 2021 Ducati.

Bagnaia isn’t the only rider injured in qualifying, however, with both Bastianini and Tech3 KTM rookie Raul Fernandez falling too – and while Bastianini is battered and bruised but fit to race, Fernandez has been ruled after being declared unfit by the circuit medics on Sunday morning.

Raul Fernandez Tech3 KTM MotoGP

“After yesterday’s crash,” he explained on social media, “I had pain in my hand. This morning I went to the medical center for another examination and although nothing was broken, the doctors decided that it was not safe to go out for the race so I could fully recover for Jerez. Thanks to the team and my family.”

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