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The future team-mates were elevated into a victory battle by Pramac’s Jorge Martin crashing from the lead on lap 7 of 20.

But a chance to wrap up the world title was also at stake, with VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi closing on third place Fabio Quartararo.

If Bagnaia held on to victory and Bezzecchi passed the Yamaha rider, Bagnaia would be crowned Ducati’s first MotoGP champion since Casey Stoner in 2007.

While Ducati had insisted its riders remain free to fight for a win, they unsurprisingly expected extra care to be taken against Bagnaia.

Not for the first time this season Bastianini, still with a slim mathematical title chance going into the race, used that ‘fight for the win’ permission and overtook Bagnaia on lap 10.

That meant even if Bezzecchi, now on Quartararo’s rear wheel, did pass the Frenchman it wouldn’t be enough to secure the title at Sepang.

Tension among Ducati management was clear as they held an impromptu mid-race meeting.

Fortunately, Bagnaia took matters into his own hands by repassing Bastianini shortly after, but the Gresini rider continued to pile the pressure on his fellow Italian, finishing just 0.270s behind.

Some say Bastianini fought too hard under the circumstances, others that he actually held back and would have launched a last-lap pass if any other rider was leading.

Either way, Bezzecchi’s team-mate Luca Marini felt the pressure from Bastianini had not only helped Bagnaia stay focussed but, when Quartararo then put on a late race charge, ensured the pair were out of reach of the Frenchman.

“It’s normal I think,” Marini said of the high stakes Bagnaia-Bastianini duel. “They managed really well, they made a good race, and that’s it.

“Also I think that this helped Pecco to stay focused, because to have another rider behind you helps you to stay very centred on what you have to do.

“If you are riding alone and see that Quartararo is gaining a lot of time, you can start to think a little bit too much.

“While like this, Pecco could just focus on managing the gap with Enea and fighting with him.

“And this strategy worked, because at the end, Quartararo was really fast, but he could not recover the gap.”

Quartararo got to within 1.5s of the victory battle before losing ground again in the closing laps.

Marini suffers first-ever DNF in MotoGP

Marini’s 37th race in the premier-class proved memorable for unfortunate reasons, the young Italian suffering his first DNF after his front holeshot device failed to release at the start of the race.

“The mechanics took out the spring, the preload from the fork, and it was working well like usual. But on the track, it stayed blocked,” Marini explained. “Maybe it picked up some piece of dirt or tyre or something from the ground on the way to the first corner, I don’t know. But it was impossible to make the fork come back up.”

Without that issue Marini, who had qualified sixth, felt he could have been close to team-mate Bezzecchi.

“Marco all the weekend with the pace was stronger than me. So I think that I could fight for P5-P6 5th,” Marini said. “Let’s move on. This is part of the game, because now the technology on our bike is unbelievable. And these things can happen.”

But does MotoGP need such devices?

“I don’t know. I would like to have something to make the bike more difficult to ride and take out all this stuff. Because we don’t need them, the show is not better with them.

“But it’s part of the development and the technology, that every year is going forward. In my opinion, we can also have a good race without this stuff. But it’s not my choice. If the manufacturers want to do this and Dorna want to make this, it’s OK.”

While front ride-height devices, which repeatedly lower the suspension during the race, will be banned from next season the single-use holeshot system will still be allowed.

Marini, riding a GP22, holds twelfth in the world championship and rookie Bezzecchi, on the GP21, 14th heading into next weekend’s Valencia finale.

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