The MotoGP 2022 season has begun! If not the racing, at least the preparation has. Riders spend the off-season working on their fitness to be ready for the season opener in Qatar. Factories spend the off-season working on the bikes, to make it the best overall package on the grid.
Everyone works towards being the MotoGP World Acrowned… and what do we have in store for 2022?
2021 was a barnstormer of a year, with incredible racing and two young protagonists fighting for the title. Frenchman Fabio Quartararo and Italian Fracesco Bagnaia put everything on the line to win, with the former trumping the latter at the end. With these two fast youngsters, it was a bit of a changing of the guard, especially compounded with Valentino Rossi retiring.
2022 sees minor variation in the rider line-up, with all the factory seats locked in with two-year contracts. Quartararo will be joined by former teammate, Franco Morbidelli in the Yamaha Factory team. The two have incredible potential for the Iwata based manufacturer.
The big red Ducatis are once again piloted by Bagnaia and Jack Miller. The former has already shown his potential over a single lap and race distance, the latter now has to live up to the expectations. Miller showed speed throughout the last season, but he lacked consistency, he will have to work on that aspect.
Mighty Honda has been a lame duck for the last two seasons with their star campaigner Marc Marquez not fully fit to race. This off-season has seen further complications with past injuries rearing its ugly head. Nobody knows whether 2022 will see the glorious return of the Marc Marquez, the champion or a half-fit rider being good one day and struggling the next. His teammate Pol Espargaro now has a season’s worth of data and experience under his belt and will be looking to start fighting regularly for the podium. He should be greatly aided by a revised Honda RC213V, which is supposedly radically different and a step in the right direction towards front end grip.
Suzuki will see the 2020 champion, Joan Mir, trying to bounce back after a lacklustre season last year, where he never looked in the reckoning for the championship. This year without the added pressure of defending his championship, he should be a strong contender. On the other side of the garage, Alex Rins, has been brilliant on the Blue, on his day. Unfortunately, those days have been few and far between, Rins having squandered away many podium opportunities throughout the season. He will be hoping to stay on the bike and finishing more races than he did last year.
Which brings us to the relatively less experienced MotoGP factory of KTM. Unlike the other manufacturers, KTM has had an up and down year. Struggling with the new Michelin front at the start of 2021, then finding a breakthrough mid-season, before once again struggling at the end. The brand has owned up to trying out too many solutions too soon. They will look towards taking small steps in the right direction, rather than throwing everything at the problem. KTM has two young and hungry riders in Miguel Oliveira and Brad Binder, both have shown potential and have won MotoGP races last year. Brand Orange will be hoping to deliver a bike capable of fighting for the podium every week to these lads.
The factory with the smallest budget, Aprilia has made giant strides in the past couple of seasons. 2022 will see them getting a big shot in the arm with the addition of Top Gun, Maverick Vinales, a rider with a proven race winning history. Vinales has oodles of talent but has had multiple mental breakdowns on track in his career. It will be make or break for this temperamental rider, as he can take the Aprilia to the limit, where his teammate Aliex Espargaro has been unable so far. Espargaro on the other hand, will continue in the team with a lot of experience of the bike and will be looking to build on the strong results of last year, which included a first podium for the Noale based team.
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Among the satellite teams, there are a few fresh faces with the rookies and some seasoned veterans as well.
Andrea Dovizioso for Yamaha and Johann Zarco for Ducati are the ‘older’ gentlemen left in the class. The two have oodles of experience racing a variety of machinery in MotoGP. Dovizioso will be returning to Yamaha after a lengthy journey with Ducati and will be looking to make amends for his year’s sabbatical. Zarco had an incredible first half of the year with Ducati in 2021 before losing his way in the latter half. The Frenchman will be looking to find his mojo again.
The satellite Hondas will be ridden by Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami, the latter being the only Asian in MotoGP. Both now have a lot of experience racing the Honda. Alex has shown podium pace in the past, while Nakagami has repeatedly cracked under pressure. 2022 will need solid results from both riders if they hope to retain their seats for the future in MotoGP.
KTM’s satellite efforts sees two new recruits, with Moto2 Champion Remy Gardner joined by runner-up Raul Fernandez. Both the riders are mercurial talents, with Fernandez expected to hit the ground running, while Gardner is known to gradually build up his speed. There will be no pressure on either of these riders, as 2022 will be a developmental year for both.
Another rookie in the class will be Darryn Binder, who will be joining Dovizioso in the Yamaha satellite effort. He has been promoted to MotoGP directly from the Moto3 class. It will be a massive learning experience for him, as he is only the second rider in history to do so.
The rest of the satellites are a bevy of Ducatis. 6 to be precise! Leading the charge is Jorge Martin, who was brilliant in his rookie season and great things are expected from him in 2022. There will also be Enea Bastianini who was phenomenal at the end of races, dicing and slicing with riders far more experienced than him. Luca Marini will also be hoping to make a big step up this season on his Ducati. The Italian company will have two rookies as well, in the likes of Fabio Di Giannantonio and Marco Bezzecchi.
2022, will see three sets of brothers racing in MotoGP, with the Marquez, Binder and Espargaro brothers racing each other!
The championship will be fought between Quartararo, Bagnaia, Marquez and Mir. Who will be able to make it stick over the year we wait and see with bated breath? Or will someone else come along and upset the apple cart? With MotoGP it is impossible to predict these days… and that is why we love the sport!