Francesco Bagnaia wins MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix one week after taking championship lead


One week after taking the points’ lead in Australia, Francesco Bagnaia padded it with a win in the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix with his closest title contender, Fabio Quartararo, finishing third. The gap between first and second in the standings is now 23 points in a series that offers 25 to win and none for a rider finishing outside the top 15.

This is the first time since 2017 that a MotoGP title fight has gone all the way to the final round. But for Quartararo to win the championship, he will need to win and have Bagnaia finish worse than 14th. Without a win by Quartararo, Bagnaia will be the champion even if he doesn’t earn points.

While Bagnaia’s race ended on the highest of notes, the weekend got off to a rocky start. He crashed twice on Saturday, in the third practice session and second qualification session. Those difficulties forced him to roll off the grid ninth. The news was worse for Quartararo, who also crashed in practice and fractured a finger. That caused him to struggle to qualify 12th.

Both riders got off to strong starts and climbed through the field. Bagnaia improved from ninth to second on the opening lap as pole winner Jorge Martin held onto the top spot.

Quartararo rode up to fifth from his 12th-place start.

Martin crashed from the lead on Lap 7 and handed the lead to Bagnaia, but Enea Bastianini was in tow and the two exchanged the lead during the final laps. Bagnaia held off a furious charge to win the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix by a slim 0.27 seconds.

For Bagnaia it was his seventh win of the season as he sets his sights on his first premier class championship.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a mathematical shot at the title, but his race went away on Lap 3 when a slight mistake dropped him to 14th in the running order. He rebounded to 10th at the checkers, but the six points that went with that result were not enough to keep the dream alive.

The MotoGP Grand Prix series leaves the Malaysian GP behind and heads for the season finale in Spain on November, 6.

In Moto 2, Ai Ogura beat Tony Arbolino and Aron Canet in a hotly contested race that saw a gap of just 0.247 seconds from first to third and less than a second to 15th-place Lorenzo Dalla Porta.

Cameron Beaubier was the highest finishing American rider in ninth with Joe Roberts in 11th.