Bagnaia stormed to his third-successive pole and fourth overall in 2021 with a lap 0.348-seconds clear of the field in Saturday’s qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas.

The Ducati rider has converted his last two poles at Misano and Aragon into victories and has given himself an outside shot at the championship, having closed down Fabio Quartararo’s advantage to 48 points with four races remaining this season.

Rossi – who helped develop Bagnaia in his VR46 Academy – says the Ducati rider’s lap was “stunning” and that it is “a great pleasure” to watch him ride the Desmosedici.

“About Pecco, Pecco is impressive,” said Rossi, who qualified 20th after a crash. “It’s his third pole position in a row with a stunning lap. He’s in a great, great shape.

“It’s great fun to look at him ride, it’s a great pleasure because he rides the Ducati at the top. It’s a long, long time that I don’t see a Ducati like this. So, I’m very happy for Pecco.”

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Bagnaia’s qualifying result at COTA makes him the first Italian in MotoGP since Rossi in 2009 to score three back-to-back poles and is the first Ducati rider to achieve the feat since Casey Stoner in 2008.

When asked by Motorsport.com about Rossi’s praise and what matching his pole stat from 2009 meant to him, Bagnaia replied: “It means that I did three poles in a row!

“So, I’m happy but I think it doesn’t change too much. We are here just to try to open the championship and the best position to start is pole position, and we achieved it again. But it doesn’t change too much I think.”

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Bagnaia went on to explain that he has been able to ride the Ducati so well this year because a mentality change in 2021, while also adapting the bike to suit his cornering style better.

“When I started with Ducati I was always crashing, my feeling was never very good, and I was trying to push but my riding style was not adapting to the Ducati,” he added. “So, in Moto2 I was always with a lot of corner speed and in Moto2 you can’t brake so hard because the rear is sliding always.

“So, when I arrived to MotoGP in the first test I was fast, but just because I was doing time attacks. And it’s something that I learned after, because in MotoGP the top riders never do a time attack [in testing] apart from maybe the first test of the season.

“But from Qatar [in 2019], we have started to work with [the] used tyre, I was in trouble and I was not feeling good. And until this year I was always without a good feeling.

“Last year I did some good races, but this year I think I changed a bit my mentality on the bike. I feel that I know very well this bike and I adapt very well on the braking because now I can stop the bike very good and I feel great.

“And also, I adapt the setting of my Ducati to the corner speed, because our bike is not so fast in the middle of the corner. But this year we did a good job and now the bike [is] more suited to that.”