MISANO ADRIATICO: Italian Francesco Bagnaia bids to win his fourth successive MotoGP race on Sunday in San Marino and world championship leader Fabio Quartararo has labelled the Ducati rider “the man to beat”. Third-placed Bagnaia’s hopes of eating into his 44-point deficit to Quartararo — Spaniard Aleix Espargaro is in second spot, 32 points adrift — could also rest on not only his Ducati team-mate Jack Miller but the generosity of the other six riders who ride Ducatis for satellite teams. There have been murmurings in the Italian press that “suggestions” have been made to them to not get in Bagnaia’s way. However, Ducati’s sporting director Paolo Ciabatti told La Repubblica that was not strictly true. “No matter who the Ducati rider is, if he is in a position to win then he must do so,” he said. “We only ask for them not to launch a passing move on Bagnaia which risks both of them crashing.” Bagnaia’s rich run of form has taken his tally over the past year to nine MotoGP victories since registering his first in Aragon in September 2021. The advantage Quartararo holds over the Italian is his consistency this season. The Frenchman displayed this at the Austrian Grand Prix last time out when, despite his Yamaha not being favoured by the Spielberg track, he limited the damage inflicted by Bagnaia in steering it into second place. With Bagnaia it is a case of feast or famine as he often fails to finish — this season he has fallen in the Qatari, French and German races. “I think I understand the reasons for my errors at the beginning of the season,” he said. “Now I am using my brain more.” Both Bagnaia and Quartararo have happy memories of the Misano track — the Italian winning this race last year and the Frenchman sealing the world crown in the Emilia-Romagna MotoGP in October. Bagnaia is itching to get back onto the track. Bagnaia said he and the team were on a high but still had a stiff task to claw back all the points between him and Quartararo with seven races remaining. The grid will not be blessed with the presence of 2020 world champion Joan Mir this weekend after he suffered an ankle injury in Austria. Japanese rider Kazuki Watanabe replaces him. Marquez will also not contest the race this weekend as he continues to recover from the latest operation on his right arm.