Bagnaia made history in 2022 when he came back from a 91-point deficit mid-season to become Ducati’s first MotoGP world champion since 2007.
Barring the curse and faith in Ducati, Pecco swapped his number 63 for the number 1 this season, marking the first time a champion has worn the number since Casey Stoner in 2012.
Only twice in the modern MotoGP era, since 2002, has a rider successfully defended the title. Bagnaia wants to emulate Marc Marquez (2016-2019) and his mentor, Valentino Rossi (2002-2004, 2008-2009).
Ahead of the new season kicking off on Thursday at the Portuguese Grand Prix, the 26-year-old is aware of the challenges he faces to defend his title, but is confident he can pull it off.
“What I remember from (watching) the races, only Marc and Vale managed to defend the title,” said Bagnaia when asked about bringing number 1 in 2023. “So, this is something I will definitely work on at home and here.
“Having the number one is something to respect, something to give the maximum to continue using it. I’m sure all the riders here want to steal this number from my bike.
“But I’m sure if we work well, all in a good way, we can defend the title. It won’t be easy, but we are there.”
Bagnaia has a new teammate in the factory Ducati squad this season. Enea Bastianini, who moves from Gresini Racing after winning four times in his second season in the premier class on a 2021-spec bike.
Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Bastianini trailed Bagnaia in the winter test and admitted that restarting the 2022 season “could be more complicated” this time around.
“I am coming from a very, very beautiful season,” said Bastianini. “2022 is much more beautiful than I expected.
“To do something better this year can be more complicated, but also many Ducati riders are fast. We have seen this during tests, and many riders have had the opportunity to try to win the title.
“All the MotoGP riders are very, very fast, and for the moment I don’t know who the best rival is. I think maybe the first rival will be Pecco because the number one in the fairing is the best at the moment, and I have to learn from him from the beginning to try to do something that better.”