The Italian rider Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati), current champion, said this Wednesday, March 22, that the Portuguese Miguel Oliveira (Aprilia) «is a great rival» in the MotoGP World Championship, which starts this weekend, with the Portuguese Grand Prix, in Portimão.
In an interview regarding his nomination to receive the Laureus Return of the Year award, due to having recovered from a 2022-point deficit in 91 to become world champion, Bagnaia stressed that Miguel Oliveira "is one of the greatest riders on the grid" , always in «fight for victories and podiums».
′′ It's a great rival. I fought with him in 2018 for the Moto2 title [which the Italian won, leaving the Portuguese in second], it was a tough fight and it was hard to beat. It has smooth and precise handling. With Aprilia it will be one of the strongest this year. We start in Portugal, his home race, so I believe it will be very competitive. Let's see », he said.
In a press conference in which the Lusa agency participated, Bagnaia revealed that «since he was a child he dreamed of being world champion».
The Italian driver was also "very proud" with the nomination for the Laureus awards, which he shares with the Danish Christian Eriksen (footballer, who returned to the Premier League after a cardiac arrest during Euro2020), the Norwegian Jakob Ingebrigtsen, athlete who recovered from defeat in the 1.500 meters to win the world title in the 5.000 meters, American Klay Thompson, basketball player for the Golden State Warriors who became NBA champion after 30 months away due to injuries, Dutch Annemiek van Vleuten, cyclist who overcame an illness to win the Tour de France Femme, and with North American Tiger Woods, a golfer who returned to the Masters after a career-threatening car accident.
“I feel that we are doing a good job. But seeing my name next to the other nominees is a great emotion. I've followed Klay Thompson for a long time. It's amazing to be named among these names. It means we are doing a good job. We have to keep it up. Last year's recovery was incredible», Bagnaia stressed.
Confessing that he is also a «great fan» of Formula 1, which has broken audience records, he defended that the MotoGP championship should «continue to evolve», as it can «provide more spectacle».
«The spectacle that we can offer the fans is greater than that of F1, we can provide great battles. Dorna [championship promoter] is doing a good job but we have to take another step forward », he defended.
Refusing the idea of being favourite, but admitting that he feels good after the winter tests, Francesco Bagnaia dismissed the criticisms made of him and those who point to the bike as the secret of victory.
“I feel that it is normal that we cannot please everyone. When Valentino [Rossi] won, they said it was because of the bike. When Marc [Márquez] won, it was for the bike. There are always 10% of people who always talk bad about us. When we see the comments or listen to podcasts, we feel bad but I decided that the most important thing is to win. What remains in history is the championship I won and not people's words», he underlined.
As for favorites in the fight for the 2023 title, he was adamant: "Myself, Marc Márquez [Honda], Fábio Quartararo [Yamaha] and Enea Bastianini [Ducati]".
MotoGP is the premier category of the Motorcycling Speed World Championship, whose championship kicks off this weekend in Portugal.
The Moto2 and Moto3 categories are the others that are up for grabs.