Mugello MotoGP: Bagnaia imperious but what about Michelin’s new front slick?


Pecco Bagnaia has a title hat-trick in his sights after winning a very flat Italian GP – if MotoGP wants more exciting racing it needs a new front slick but the latest news suggests the new tyre may not arrive until 2026

Martin leads at Turn One

Martin leads at Turn 1 – world champ Bagnaia has already overtaken three riders and is about to snatch the lead


Pecco Bagnaia’s third consecutive Mugello MotoGP victory was a masterpiece: his jaw-droppingly brave first two corners and his mind-bendingly metronomic pace over the entire 23 laps were awesome to behold.

They also gave him his first sprint/grand prix double since Red Bull Ring last August and took him to within 18 points of world championship leader Jorge Martin, who gave vain chase throughout the GP. Mugello also gave Ducati its fourth consecutive podium lockout.

A hat-trick of titles now seems a real possibility for the reigning champion, which would take him into very, very exalted company, sharing this MotoGP pantheon with Marc Màrquez, Valentino Rossi, Mick Doohan, Wayne Rainey, ‘King’ Kenny Roberts, Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, John Surtees and Geoff Duke.

The gap between Bagnaia and Martin seesawed by a few tenths lap after lap throughout Sunday’s race, so it looked like the world champion was playing with Martin like a cat plays with a mouse: let the mouse feel like it’s going to win this little contest, then boom, give it another glimpse of freedom, then boom again.

In fact Bagnaia was playing another game, at the circuit which asks more of the front tyre than any other.

“It was very difficult to remain very constant with the times because every time I tried to do two laps in a row with the same pace the front tyre was moving a lot, so I decided to use this strategy: to push one lap, then cool down the tyre the next lap and it worked perfectly.”

Mugello asks so much of the front tyre because the layout is mighty fast (now only 0.3mph/0.5kmh slower than Phillip Island), with lots of high-speed corner entries, many of them downhill, with negative camber.

Martin never got close enough to attack Bagnaia

Martin never got close enough to attack Bagnaia, who rode a 100% perfect race


Perhaps Bagnaia had learned his little trick from mentor Valentino Rossi telling him about Márquez doing the same at Phillip Island in 2015: if the front tyre overheats and loses performance, baby it for a bit, so its temperature and pressure reduce – which restores the tyre to its original profile, thereby expanding the contact patch – then go for it again.

Despite this one-off strategy Bagnaia destroyed his own race record – from last year – by an extraordinary 25.4 seconds. Some of this performance increase came from the 27-year-old Italian, who is riding better than ever, and his Ducati GP24, but most of it came from Michelin’s all-new and super-grippy 2024 tyre compounds, because even 15th-placed Álex Rins would’ve won the 2023 Italian GP with his race time from the 2024 edition.

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Bagnaia’s team-mate Enea Bastianini might’ve been in the victory mix if he hadn’t been asleep in fourth place for much of the race. He admitted afterwards that he only came to his senses when Márquez came past with six laps to go. That wake-up call took him past Márquez on the penultimate lap, past Martin at the final corner and across the finish line only 0.799 seconds behind the winner.

Bagnaia’s race may have been a masterpiece and his pace stunning, but many who watched Mugello struggled to stay awake, like Bastianini. Apart from his first two corners and Bastianini’s successful duels with Márquez and Martin, the race was a follow-my-leader bore, which would’ve seemed very familiar to Liberty Media’s Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali, who was spectating at Mugello.

Although the previous four GPs – COTA, Jerez, Le Mans and Catalunya – were hugely entertaining, MotoGP has had plenty of dull races in recent seasons, with riders unable to get their claws into riders in front. This blog has explored the various reasons behind this phenomenon on several occasions – for example, big aero, ride-height devices and front-tyre pressure, which has been exacerbated by the extra stress placed on the tyre by big aero and so on.

Dorna and MotoGP have addressed some of these issues in their new technical regulations, published recently and due to take effect in 2027. But there’s one issue that can be solved much sooner than that: the front tyre.

Bagnaia and Bastianini

Bagnaia and Bastianini – wearing blue in honour of Italy’s football team – celebrate their first-ever factory Ducati one-two


Martin stated after Sunday’s race that high front-tyre pressure is often the reason riders can’t attack each other, because the heat from the bike in front overheats the front tyre, increasing its pressure, which changes its profile, shrinks the contact patch and reduces grip.

“We are so on the limit with front temperature during the last few years… so when you are three-tenths or closer to the rider in front it’s impossible to get even closer,” said the Spaniard.

Everyone in MotoGP knows that Michelin’s front slick isn’t as good as its rear slick, which is why the French company has been planning to introduce a new front for several years. The original plan was 2021, but that intro was delayed until 2022, due to MotoGP’s Covid-related technical freezes.

It is now 2024. Michelin is currently working hard on a new front for next season, which will be manufactured by the same top-secret C3M process that the company has used to make its rear slicks for some years.

C3M basically 3D prints every tyre. This is the technology used to create the famous ‘overnight’ tyres that played a big part in MotoGP before the championship switched to spec tyres in 2009. Using the C3M machine will allow a stiffer front casing, which will be less sensitive to pressure growth.

The 2025 front was first used by some MotoGP riders during pre-season testing and is available for use in today’s Mugello tests.

But after yesterday’s race, Michelin revealed that the tyre may not be ready until 2026.

Why? Because it’s not being tested enough. This isn’t Michelin’s fault. If the company gives its all-new front tyre to riders, they mostly won’t want to test it, because why would riders allocate valuable testing time to evaluating something they won’t race until next season when they’ve got 14 race weekends ahead with the current front?

Bagnaia leads Martin and Bastianini

Bagnaia leads Martin and Bastianini through Casanova – the Mugello crowd was the biggest since the end of the Rossi era


Motorcycle front tyres are tricky things. F1 lap times come from stamping on the accelerator and stamping on the brakes, because F1 cars have four huge tyre contact patches. Much of a motorcycle’s lap time comes from the front tyre: straight-line braking, trail braking with lean angle, corner entry and mid-corner speed, which also affects corner-exit speed.

And all this through a tiny contact patch, which is constantly ‘talking’ to the rider, telling him how close he is to the limit. When the rider feels the tyre squirming or crabbing across the asphalt he knows he’s on that knife edge between lap-record pace and crashing.

Therefore front-tyre performance is all about feel. And the quality of that feel either gives the rider the confidence to attack corners or takes it away.

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This is why Michelin’s new front slick needs to be tested much more and by the world’s fastest riders, who will ask more of it. It’s already being used by factory test riders but if it’s to be ready for next season it needs to be tested by the full-time riders.

Dorna therefore needs to make it compulsory for its full-time riders to use the tyre during official tests, like at Mugello today. After today only two more full-grid testing days remain – on the Monday after September’s San Marino GP at Misano and on the Tuesday after November’s season-ending Valencia GP.

That’s very little testing for something as vital and tricky as a front tyre, especially when Valencia in November won’t be much use, and the later the tyre is tried by MotoGP full-timers the less time Michelin will have to react to their feedback to get the tyre ready for 2025.

No doubt the manufacturers, for the same reason as the riders, don’t want to dedicate testing time to the new front, but Dorna needs to exert its power over them to try the tyre, because if MotoGP has to wait until 2026 it will mean fewer thrilling duels.

Only giving riders the new front at Mugello today should have been a no-brainer, because it shouldn’t be underestimated how important this new front tyre is to MotoGP: the better the racing, the more fans will watch and the more money will flow into Dorna’s coffers and hopefully to the teams.

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