Review of the 2022 Moto GP season – Palatinate
By Tom Doughty
Halfway through the 2022 season, 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo looks set to retain his title. With 3 victories to date and several podiums to his name, the Yamaha rider has always been excellent, with performances from Jorge Lorenzo in the regularity of the laps and his ability to escape at the front.
One factor that boosts the likelihood of Quartararo winning the 2022 championship is that none of his main rivals can consistently threaten him. The expected 2022 challengers of Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia, Pramac’s Jorge Martin and Suzuki’s Joan Mir have repeatedly pulled out of racing this year.
Quartararo, by comparison, rarely crashes – pair that with his incredible ability to score podiums and rarely having a bad race weekend makes him an impressive unstoppable force.
Quartararo is easily comparable to Max Verstappen’s current excellent form in Formula 1, with MotoGP having similar team situations to F1. Ducati is identical to Ferrari, with no Italian manufacturer having won the drivers’ championship since 2007.
Although both teams have strong financial support, they cannot constantly fight for the title. Honda in MotoGP is once again incredibly similar to Mercedes, with Marc Márquez, like Lewis Hamilton, having dominated the 2010s now suffering due to bad machinery (with Márquez having withdrawn from the 2022 championship to undergo further surgery due to complications from an accident in 2020).
Where MotoGP and F1 differ, however, is in the competitiveness of the rest of the grid. Other factory manufacturers and privateer teams are highly competitive in MotoGP, with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaró, Pramac’s Johann Zarco and Gresini’s Enea Bastianini currently second, third and fourth in the riders’ championship respectively.
Aprilia is particularly impressive, with a bike that for decades was very uncompetitive and has now seen something of a renaissance in 2022.
Aprilia is to be commended for the hard work and commitment it has shown and fully deserves the success it has had in 2022. Even two years ago it would have been unfathomable to see Aprilia second in the Drivers’ Championship.
While Aprilia has made great strides in its bike, the Honda and KTM factories have had a miserable season so far. At last week’s German Grand Prix, Honda had its first finish without points in 40 years, with Honda star Márquez seated and his fellow riders collapsing or retiring to the pits with mechanical problems.
The only finisher was test rider Stefan Bradl, who finished outside the points because the bike was so hot it caused burns to his body.
Honda’s changes to the 2022 bike have been a disaster – serious reforms need to be made for the Japanese manufacturer to create a competitive bike again. The same can be said for KTM, with both manufacturers wasting their talented rider teams on inferior machines.
The major drama of the 2022 season so far has been the surprise announcement of Suzuki’s withdrawal from MotoGP at the end of this season. It was a huge shock, especially since Suzuki won the 2020 riders’ championship with Joan Mir, as well as a competitive bike.
Suzuki has the smallest budget due to its size compared to other manufacturers, with financial considerations probably being the main factor in their withdrawal. This means that their excellent runners in Joan Mir and Alex Rins will now be available on the runner market for teams to negotiate contracts.
The majority of rider contracts expire in 2022, so there will be plenty of exciting team changes for riders – expect big announcements over the summer break.
Also, Yamaha’s private team from RNF announcing its move to a private team from Aprilia, coupled with Suzuki’s exit, means there are now more riders than bikes, and it’s likely that big names leave the paddock.
To that end, MotoGP has the rather unusual problem of having too much talent. There are too many talented Moto2 and Moto3 riders for the number of places in the premier MotoGP class.
The 2022 MotoGP grid has no paying riders, with the grid incredibly packed with talent. Riders who have performed well in this year’s Moto2 class may struggle to earn a spot due to insufficient seating, unlike in previous years.
This is positive for the MotoGP championship program as a whole, as there is no ‘dead wood’ occupying premium class spaces, but it does cause talented riders to miss the opportunity to be promoted, or that MotoGP riders lose their race too quickly if they don’t perform immediately.
Iker Lecuona, last year’s Tech3 KTM rider is a good example of this, with the 22-year-old rider losing his seat despite having decent upside.
The MotoGP paddock’s pursuit of rapidly promoting young Moto2 riders and eliminating them before they’ve had a chance to show their true potential is short-sighted, especially with currently Espargaró and Zarco (both in their 30s) currently being second and third in the driver. championship despite their age.
The 2022 season should be a cautionary tale giving riders the time they need to develop properly. Not every driver can make a splash in Quartararo, as it’s important for drivers to spend time in the lower classes (rather than being rushed) to hone their racing skills, which will ultimately pay off in the long run. MotoGP as a sport in 2022 has never been in better shape, with the rest of the season promising to deliver some great racing – the summer break cannot end soon enough.
Image credit: Box Repsol via Flickr