Francesco Bagnaia will sport the No. 1 plate in MotoGP, making him the first rider in a more than decade and the ninth driver in the past 30 years to take advantage of the honor. By doing so, he hopes to break a 25-year-old curse that stretches back to 1998.
That year, Mick Doohan was the last rider to win back-to-back championships with the No. 1 plate on his bike – his fifth consecutive title.
Bagnaia’s come from behind victory in 2022 was one of the most dramatic championships in in the history of the sport, and he has decided to roll the dice one more time.
Beginning with a victory in the Dutch GP, Bagnaia scored eight podium finishes in the next nine rounds to close the gap on Fabio Quartaro. In the final few rounds, the defending 2021 champion suffered through several bad races, leaving Bagnaia all but mathematically certain of his first championship entering the final round.
Since 1998, Alex Criville (defending in 2000), Kenny Roberts, Jr. (2001), Nicky Haden (2007), Casey Stoner (2008 and 2012) and Jorge Lorenzo (2016) have tried and failed to defend their title with the No. 1 plate.
After Criville and Roberts failed to defend their titles, Valentino Rossi chose to use his assigned number instead of the honorific and won five straight championships from 2001-2005. Hayden and Stoner then ignored the curse and failed to repeat the next two titles before Rossi rattled off another pain in 2008 and 2009.
In the past decade, Marc Marquez won back-to-back titles in 2013/2014 and four consecutively from 2016 through 2019, each with his assigned number.
No one else has wanted to thumb their nose at fate. Bagnaia doesn’t care.
“My winter break was shorter than usual because of all the commitments after winning the World Championship, but now I am charged up and eager to start the season,” Bagnaia said at MotoGP.com. “I have missed the Desmosedici GP and my team, and I can’t wait to get back on track.
“I could not decide whether to continue using the No. 63 or switch to the No. 1, and in the end, I decided on the latter. Seeing it on the bike is beautiful, and now my goal will be to do everything to keep it. It won’t be easy because I expect even tougher competition than last year, with many rivals ready to fight for the title: however, I am aware that I have the best bike and team to aim high again in 2023.”