Francesco Bagnaia's late-season rally did not come in time to push Fabio Quartararo all the way for the 2021 MotoGP™️ title, but the Ducati rider's outstanding form has shown him how to compete next year.
Quartararo clinched the championship at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix when second-placed Bagnaia dramatically crashed out.
On Sunday, at the Algarve Grand Prix, Bagnaia – starting from pole for a fifth consecutive race – won while Quartararo crashed.
If not for his untimely previous retirement, the Italian would be still within touching distance of the season leader heading into the final round.
"If I had the win in Misano, today was perfect for me," Bagnaia told a news conference. "But it's not like this."
Bagnaia's result clinched second and also delivered the constructors' championship for Ducati, who now lead the teams' standings, too.
But attention can start to turn towards next year, when Bagnaia will hope to be competitive from the outset.
"I think we didn't lose the championship in Misano," he said. "I lost a lot of points before and I started to be so competitive after some races.
"For sure, it's a really great base for next year. Also we have worked so hard and so well with our bike, so for next year we have a really great base."
Of course, Bagnaia would have to cope with significant pressure if he were to lead the title race from the outset, and he acknowledged riding this week without the championship on the line was an easier experience.
"I didn't change it compared to Misano," he explained. "But in Misano, I was trying to [keep] open the championship but I was knowing that it was very difficult to win it.
"Today, if I had the win in Misano, for sure Quartararo was not crashing. I was racing without the pressure of the championship, so I just did the same thing."
Quartararo took the title from Joan Mir, who is also keen to respond in 2022 after a difficult championship defence.
He finished second on Sunday for the second time this year but has not won a single race and said Suzuki would have to work on a "better base".
For now, Mir was simply delighted to be back in contention on race day, saying: "Honestly, I'm so happy, I'm especially happy for this podium.
"It's not for the result, it's more for the weekend that we did. It was unbelievable. I felt so good from the first moment and I was able to be competitive from FP1.
"Then, as Pecco said, when you feel good with the bike and the base is good, everything came easily. What I needed was a weekend like this one."