Ducati’s world champion Francesco Bagnaia has won the season-opening Portuguese Grand Prix to instantly take a big lead in the riders’ championship with maximum points.
Bagnaia won MotoGP’s first-ever sprint on Saturday to move top of the standings and victory in Sunday’s race, which he dominated after taking the lead, earned him another 25 points.
Australian Jack Miller, who had finished fourth in the sprint, ended up seventh on his new KTM in what was an encouraging weekend for the Queenslander.
Italian Bagnaia, Miller’s old teammate, even celebrated his victory with Portuguese soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo’s trademark goal celebration, much to the home crowd’s delight.
Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales and VR46 Racing’s Marco Bezzecchi completed the podium but it was Bagnaia who was happiest as he started the season strongly after waiting six races last year for his first win and podium.
“It was very long race, I’m very happy. This season we started as I wanted, how the team wanted. Thanks to the team that has done an incredible job,” Bagnaia said.
Surprise pole sitter Marc Marquez was quick off the line but fell three places behind as riders jostled for position and it was local favourite Miguel Oliveira who made a blistering start to move from fourth on the grid to first on the opening lap.
But just as Marquez attempted to move up to third, he clipped Pramac Racing’s Jorge Martin, who managed to maintain his balance, before the Honda rider barged straight into Oliveira as both riders crashed out of the race.
The home fans were up in arms when the replay of the crash was beamed on the big screen and they were not in a forgiving mood when Marquez returned to the paddock and raised his arms to the grandstand in an apologetic gesture.
Oliveira was taken to the medical centre for checks, with replays showing Marquez’s bike may have hit him in the back.
Vinales capitalised on the incident to move up to second behind leader Bagnaia and Bezzecchi went third.
But Bagnaia extended his lead over Vinales, who settled his first podium since the San Marino Grand Prix last year while Bezzecchi secured only his second MotoGP podium finish.
“The job we did this weekend has paid off. I was trying very hard because I knew Aprilia had a little more,” Vinales said.
Johann Zarco sprang a late surprise by picking off riders in the last lap to finish a fourth despite struggling with illness while Alex Marquez, who made the switch to Gresini Racing this year, finished fifth.
Miller, who started fifth on the grid, was lying in third place early on but eventually got squeezed back to seventh.
Over the weekend, he picked up 15 points to lie joint-fourth in the standings, while Bagnaia leads on 37 points, 12 ahead of Vinales.