(Motorsport-Total.com) – Currently out of a job in 2024, but secured first MotoGP victory just before the end of the 2023 season: What Fabio Di Giannantonio achieved on Sunday at the Qatar Grand Prix at Lusail International Circuit, It will not be forgotten so quickly.
Fabio Di Giannantonio celebrates his first MotoGP victory
After “Diggia” took second place in qualifying and the sprint on Saturday, he went one better in Sunday’s Grand Prix, in a duel with World Championship leader Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia.
Riding his GP22 specification Gresini Ducati from last year, Di Giannantonio attacked Bagnaia on the current factory Ducati in the final stages of the race. He overtook the world championship leader with three and a half laps to go and a few minutes later he had his first MotoGP victory in his pocket.
Just before the decisive overtake in Bagnaia, Di Giannantonio saw the message “Mapping 8” appear on the display of his Ducati Gresini. Was it a stable order from Ducati? In many places, memories of the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix were immediately brought back.
In October 2017, at Sepang, Ducati factory rider Jorge Lorenzo received the “Mapping 8” message and at that time it meant that he was no longer allowed to overtake his teammate Andrea Dovizioso, who was fighting for the world title. This time the meaning of the message was different, as revealed by Di Giannantonio after the victory over Bagnaia.
What “Mapping 8” meant to Di Giannantonio
“Mapping 8 was simply the signal to attack,” says Di Giannantonio, explaining the Gresini team’s tactics: “We had planned the race very carefully. I had to start well. I had to be in a certain position after the first lap.” … I had to watch the tires in the middle of the race. And then I would get a signal at the right time. When the signal arrived, it would be time to attack.”
“That was a good sign,” admits Di Giannantonio. “Because I couldn’t see my pit board. There were so many pit boards shown that I couldn’t even see mine. That’s why I didn’t even know how many laps I had left to do.”
For the first victory, “Diggia” had to overtake the World Championship leader “Pecco” Bagnaia
“When I did Mapping 8 [auf dem Display] I saw it, I realized that now is the time. Of course, because it was the ‘Pecco’ I had in front of me, I had to be a little careful. That’s why I tried to overtake as cleanly as possible”, recalls Di Giannantonio.
The time came at turn 12, in the 19th of 22 laps. With his light blue Ducati Gresini, “Diggia” overtook the red factory Ducati from Bagnaia on the inside and thus took the lead. “For a brief moment I felt sorry for him because I was stealing some points from him. But I finally saw the chance for my first victory”, recalls Di Giannantonio and says: “I hope the maneuver is clean. “
The decision for this duel has not yet been made. But the decision was made half a lap after the overtaking maneuver. When braking for Turn 1, Bagnaia’s Ducati was sucked into the slipstream of Di Giannantonio’s Gresini Ducati. The two almost came close to colliding.
With great luck, Bagnaia managed to avoid falling. But as he had to travel a wide arc across the asphalt area, a final attack on Di Giannantonio was no longer an option for him. It was “Diggia” who crossed the finish line first with a lead of 2.7 seconds.
“I feel relaxed. But that’s also because I still haven’t really understood what happened,” admits Di Giannantonio, the most recent winner of a MotoGP race. He now achieved his first victory in the penultimate race of his second season in the premier class. Until then, it hadn’t always been an easy path for him.
Di Giannantonio’s first and so far only pole position was achieved on his eighth attempt, at Mugello 2022. At the time, this achievement was mainly due to the weather conditions.
“Diggia” had to be patient for almost two full years – 38 in Grand Prix terms – before his first premier class victory. On this path he always remained true to himself, even and especially when it became clear that he would not be able to achieve a third MotoGP season with Gresini-Ducati.
Malaysia’s “ugly” development has released new forces
“I think it’s a shame that many people think that self-confidence is a kind of arrogance. one step at a time, improving, improving and learning”, says the 25-year-old Italian.
“Diggia” has recently made great strides in his development as a MotoGP rider
“When I arrived here, I had the feeling that I had reached the point where I was a somewhat complete racing driver. It’s time to take the next step. And that’s exactly the step we managed to take here,” says Di Giannantonio happily and reveals another secret after his redeeming first MotoGP victory.
“After the weekend in Malaysia, something happened regarding my future, nothing good,” he says. With this, Di Giannantonio refers to the doors that have closed for him in 2024. “At home, I told my closest friends and family that I would win in Qatar.”
What advice did “Diggia” receive from friends and family? “They told me: ‘Fábio, don’t spread the news. Just fly there and do your job. Because if you count everything, all the energy will be lost.’ I then replied, ‘Don’t worry. I’m just saying I’m going to win.'”
Does his first MotoGP victory come too late for “Diggia”?
First top-5 finish at the end of September in India, first podium in mid-October in Australia, first victory in mid-November in Qatar: the progress Di Giannantonio has made in the second half of his second MotoGP season is also the same for his teammate Gresini did not remain hidden.
Alex Márquez has his own theory that “Diggia” has not only managed to keep up with him several times recently, but has even left him behind several times: “Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have a contract at the moment. If you’re in this situation, then you approaches race weekends differently.”
It remains to be seen what will happen next with Di Giannantonio after two years at Gresini-Ducati
“Maybe for him this situation will help him to be more determined, more aggressive and more focused”, continued Alex Márquez. And in this context, the Spaniard also highlights his companion.
“He not only improved his own performance, but also raised the entire team to a higher level,” says the young Márquez of Di Giannantonio. “The fact that I drive the way I do now is partly thanks to him. I’m very happy for him. The only question is whether [der Sieg] Don’t be late for him.”
And what does Marc Márquez say about this? After all, the older of the two Márquez brothers is exactly the rider who will take Di Giannantonio’s place in the Gresini team for the 2024 MotoGP season.
“I congratulate him. He gets the best out of himself exactly when he needs it most,” said Marc Márquez about “Diggia” and continued: “He has talent. But as the last World Cup showed many times: “In addition to talent, at Sometimes it’s so important to be in the right place at the right time.”
The coming days and weeks will show whether an unexpected door will open for Di Giannantonio in 2024 (or later) with his first MotoGP victory.