Enea Bastianini says that adjustments to his Ducati’s engine brake setting, and the location of his brake lever, are behind his return to form in the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Italian was expected to challenge factory Ducati team-mate Francesco Bagnaia for the title this season following a break-out 2022 campaign with Gresini on a year-old Desmosedici, which saw him collect a total of four wins en route to third in the rider’s standings.

He has struggled to make inroads on his points-leading team-mate this season though, even after recovering from the broken shoulder he suffered in the season-opening Portuguese GP weekend. He previously described feeling like the GP23 as feeling “like a chopper”, though he and his team made key changes to the engine braking and brake lever locations on his machine ahead of the weekend.

The changes made an immediate impact as he qualified just 0.099s behind Bagnaia in third, before finishing second in the sprint race and securing an assured victory in the Malaysian GP. He revealed that he can now match Bagnaia in the braking zones having previously struggled to, and conceded that it felt “fantastic to be back here after a s*** season.”   

“It’s fantastic to be back here after a s*** season for me,” began Bastianini.

“We started the weekend with a different mindset because we understood what the solution was (to lack of pace).

“My crew chief called me one week ago and told me they knew what I wanted, they’d checked the tyre data and felt they knew what I needed.  

“The setup of the bike has remained the same, but we have changed the engine brake a lot in terms of its progression, and I have switched the brake lever to the first finger which has given me more confidence for the hard braking.  

I’ve been really close to Pecco (Bagnaia) this weekend, because if you look at the data from the past races I also lost too much time in this area to him and this weekend I’ve been much better.”

Bastianini added that he “pushed like a b****** the whole race” as he tried to fend off Sepang sprint winner Alex Marquez, explaining that the emotion of finally making a competitive breakthrough with this year’s Ducati is “too big” after a season of trying so many things with little improvement.

“From that has arrived this great result, and I knew from yesterday (this was possible) because I saw my pace yesterday and realised I could win today,” continued Bastianini.

“I was fast this morning (in warm-up), and my target was to be first in the opening corner and then stay there. I pushed like a b****** for the whole race.  

“The emotion is too big when you try so many different things with yourself and the bike and nothing works, it’s always a bad situation. To come back from this is not easy, but my family has supported me all the time and now I’m back.”  

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