The VROOM Blog: It’s finally here – MotoGP 2022!
It’s that favourite time of the year again – the start of the MotoGP season, and 2022 is looking set to be another cracker. While the championship may have lost a legend when Valentino Rossi retired at the end of 2021, MotoGP looks stronger than ever heading forward – with no less than 14 world champions on the grid with 24 titles between them, each looking to add to their championship tally. And of course, there are those yet to win a championship who believe that 2022 could be their year.
Before I look at 2022 and what it has to offer us, I have to mention Danilo Petrucci. Danilo has spent 10 years in the MotoGP championship and 2021 was his final season, having lost his ride at Tech3, but all was not lost as he announced that he had struck a deal with KTM to race in the 2022 Dakar Rally. The Dakar takes place in early January and honestly isn’t something that I have ever really paid a great deal of attention to, but I do know that it is a gruelling event that sees riders (and drivers – there are cars and trucks too!) take on a series of stages in the desert.
This year however, I had the app downloaded and I had it set to give me notifications of Danilo’s progress each day. Danilo stunned many in the rally world when he won the 5th stage of the rally, becoming the first rider ever to win both a MotoGP race and a Dakar Rally stage. The win was even more impressive given that he was carrying injuries. For the 2022 season, MotoGP’s loss will be MotoAmerica’s gain as Petrucci heads back to Ducati with the Warhorse HSBK Racing NYC team in the American Superbike championship, taking over the ride from Loris Baz who rode the bike to podium finishes and 4th in the championship last season.
Back to MotoGP, and this year we are seeing more of a regular looking calendar following two seasons of disruption, cancelled rounds, and back-to-back races due to the pandemic. We see the return of (among others) the Australian, Japanese and Malaysian races, as well as the addition of the Indonesian and Finnish GPs.
The season gets underway this weekend with the now traditional evening race under the lights at Qatar, before the championship heads to the new Mandalika circuit in Indonesia for the first time. The circuit hosted its first major event last year as the World Superbike championship ended their season there. There were issues with the weather (I don’t know why you would schedule a race weekend in the middle of monsoon season) but the races that we did see were entertaining. The circuit is having to resurface a large section of the track though following complaints from MotoGP riders at the pre-season test earlier this month.
Following the inaugural round at Mandalika will be the return of the Argentinian GP in early April, with COTA following a week later. There will be a weekend off before the paddock hits Europe for the first time in 2022, with Portimão and Jerez hosting rounds ahead of Le Mans and Mugello at the end of May. June will see rounds at Catalunya, Sachsenring and Assen before the championship makes its long-awaited debut at Finland’s KymiRing in July.
There will be a 3 week break after the KymiRing and then the paddock will reconvene at Silverstone for the British GP, which will be followed two weeks later by the Austrian GP at the Red Bull Ring. We kick off September with Misano and Aragon ahead of the return of 4 fly-away races that have been missing from the calendar for the last 2 years – the Japanese and Thai GPs will be followed by much anticipated races at Phillip Island and Sepang before the paddock returns to Europe for the season finale at Valencia.
This year we will see more riders with the grid expanding from 22 to 24 riders – but who will be where? We’ll start off with World Champion Fabio Quartararo, who remains with the Monster Energy Yamaha team for a second season and will no doubt be looking to retain his title. Fabio will once again be partnered with Franky Morbidelli – the pair were team mates at Petronas Yamaha before Fabio’s promotion to the factory team, and ended the 2021 season together following the mid-season musical chairs that stemmed from Maverick Viñales’ move away from Yamaha.
I think they will be a strong team – but can Yamaha deliver a bike that will help them achieve the desired results? Quartararo expressed concerns about the package towards the end of last season, and has continued to do so during the pre-season tests. It did appear at points last season that it was Fabio making the difference as the other Yamaha riders struggled, and Franky did secure a podium finish before his injury – here’s hoping that between Yamaha and the riders they can have another strong season.
The other two Yamahas on the grid go to the team formerly known as Petronas, now rebranded as WithU Yamaha RNF. Andrea Dovizioso will remain with the team for 2022 having replaced Franky Morbidelli towards the end of 2021, and he will be joined by MotoGP rookie Darryn Binder. Binder has made the jump straight from Moto3, skipping the usual step of Moto2 – a feat we’ve only seen once before with Jack Miller skipping the intermediate class when he joined the MotoGP grid back in 2015. For me, this is a big step and I just can’t quite get on board with it being a good idea, especially when the rider in question is known as ‘Divebomb’. Hopefully he can give a good account of himself in MotoGP and prove me wrong, but he is going to have to seriously look at how he carries himself out on track. Dovi is of course at the other end of his MotoGP career, and brings with him a wealth of experience that Binder could learn from.
2021 runner up Pecco Bagnaia remains at the factory Ducati team with Jack Miller and the pair will be looking to improve on their performances this season. Pecco will obviously be looking to go one step further and take the championship, while Jack will no doubt be after the same prize. Pecco and Jack are a solid team and will be spearheading a massive effort from Ducati this season, as Ducati will have the largest presence of any manufacturer on the grid with 8 bikes.
The two Pramac Ducati bikes will remain in the hands of Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco. Martin will surely be looking to build on what was an incredible rookie season in spite of the horrendous injuries he suffered early on, and you would imagine that he will have an eye on Jack Miller’s seat in the factory team. The team have confirmed Pecco for 2023 and 2024, but he could well find himself with a new team mate should Martin continue with his impressive form.
Also on Ducati machinery for 2022 will be the Gresini MotoGP team, having split from the factory Aprilia team at the end of 2021. 2022 will see former Moto3 Gresini team mates Enea Bastianini and Fabio Di Giannantonio reunited as Enea looks to build on the podium success he had in his rookie season and Fabio steps up from Moto2.
The final pair of Ducatis go to the new Mooney VR46 team, which will field rookie Marco Bezzecchi alongside Luca Marini. The pair rode together in Moto2 and worked well together, so it will be interesting to see how the pair go this season.
Honda retain the same 4 riders as last season, with Marc Marquez and Pol Espargaro in the Repsol Honda team, while Alex Marquez and Taka Nakagami remain with LCR. Repsol Honda will be looking for a much better season than they had last year – Marc Marquez will be ready to start a full season on the back of 3 wins last year before a reoccurrence of an eye injury forced him to miss the final 2 races of 2021. Pol Espargaro had a poor season by his (and Honda’s) standards, but there were a few glimmers of hope for the Spaniard, and he comes into 2022 looking for big improvements – something he hopes will come from the ‘radical’ changes Honda have made to their machinery for the 2022 season.
Suzuki also retain the same line up for 2022, with 2020 champion Joan Mir and Alex Rins once again lining up in blue. Having had no team manager last season following the departure of Davide Brivio, Suzuki have finally signed someone to take charge. None other than former Ducati and Honda team manager – Livio Suppo. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the team and Livio work together, this could be a master stroke from Suzuki…
I said last season that KTM were blessed with an embarrassment of riches in Moto2 and Moto3, and this season, we see two of those stars move up into the premier class. Moto2 champion Remy Gardner, and Raul Fernandez who pushed him all the way to the final round, will once again be team mates as they join Herve Poncharal’s Tech3 squad. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they go in MotoGP – both are fantastic talents and fully deserving of their places on the MotoGP grid.
The factory KTM bikes will remain in the hands of Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira, both of whom will be hoping for more from their 2022 seasons.
That just leaves Aprilia, who remain unchanged – from the end of the 2021 season anyway! Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales will represent Aprilia and it will be really interesting to see which of them (if either of them) will be the one to bring Aprilia the success they so desire. They will be keen to build on the podium that they finally achieved last season, and I think that it could be Maverick who has the best chance of doing so, and I can only imagine how well that will go down with his team mate!
For the second season in a row, we are without a full-time British rider in the premier class, which as I’ve said before doesn’t bother me personally, but I can see the benefits of having a British rider on the grid in terms of publicity and interest in the sport.
We do now however have a British team in Moto3 thanks to Michael Laverty who has expanded his MLav Academy earlier than he had planned and taken over the grid slots (and machinery) left behind by the Petronas squad. Michael’s VisionTrack team will field Scott Ogden and Josh Whatley in their first season in the Moto3 World Championship, and will look to provide a stepping stone for British riders looking to make their way into MotoGP – something that has been lacking in recent years. The more experienced Ogden impressed in pre-season testing, and I look forward to seeing how he performs as the season progresses. Obviously, it is going to be a big learning curve for the whole team, so it would be unrealistic to expect ‘big’ things from them in their first season, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to completely rule out some good performances.
Alongside Ogden and Whatley in the class will be Moto3 ‘veteran’ John McPhee, who enters his final season in the championship having reached the age limit for the class. Having been messed around by his previous team for the last couple of seasons regarding moving on to Moto2, John finds himself once again in Moto3. While I would’ve liked to have seen John in Moto2 this season, it does make sense to take a ride with a strong team in Moto3 rather than a lesser team in Moto2, and I do think that’s what he has in the Sterilgarda team. Under the stewardship of Max Biaggi this team has provided a springboard to Moto2 for Aron Canet and Romano Fenati, both of whom enjoyed podium success with the team in Moto3, and I have everything crossed that the same will be said of John at the end of the season.
Sam Lowes and Jake Dixon remain in Moto2 for 2022, with Sam entering his 3rd season with the MarcVDS team while Jake moves back to the Aspar team. The pair have had differing pre-seasons, with Jake topping the times on day one of testing at Portimão as Sam was forced to miss sessions and eventually the final day thanks to a case of tendonitis.
We will also see the return of Bradley Smith to the paddock as he returns to the MotoE class for 2022. Bradley finished 3rd in the class in 2019.
Following what turned out to be a closely fought battle for rookie of the year in 2021, with Enea Bastianini eventually losing out to Jorge Martin by only a few points, this year we will have 5 rookies looking to take the crown. Remy Gardner, Raul Fernandez, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Marco Bezzecchi and Darryn Binder will all be keen to be crowned rookie of the year, but who will come out on top? Personally, I think that having skipped Moto2 will hinder Darryn in the battle of the rookies, and I would be leaning towards Remy or Raul based on Moto2 performance, but the Ducati does seem to be a better bike than the KTM at the moment so I wouldn’t be keen to put money on it!
I wouldn’t be too keen to read too much into their pre-season test performances either – testing almost always produces results far different to actual race performances (just ask Maverick Viñales, so often crowned pre-season champion), plus you never know what is being worked on by each rider / team. Since I mentioned it though, it was Marco Bezzecchi who was fastest rookie at both the Sepang and Mandalika tests, while Di Giannantonio was fastest of the rookies in Jerez.
Talking of pre-season testing that we are reading nothing into, we have seen premier class tests at Jerez, Sepang and Mandalika. While the Jerez test took place at the end of the 2021 season, Sepang and Mandalika took place last month (February). It was Pecco Bagnaia who came out of Jerez fastest, ahead of Taka Nakagami and Fabio Quartararo.
Enea Bastianini topped the timesheets in Sepang ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Jorge Martin, while Pol Espargaro was the fastest man after 3 days at the new Mandalika circuit ahead of Fabio Quartararo and Luca Marini. As I say, I don’t really think its worth reading too much into the test results, but it is interesting to see a few different names in the top 3 of each test.
While we know that Fabio Quartararo will be heading into the season looking to defend his crown, there is a raft of riders who will be champing at the bit to take it from him. Its always difficult to predict who will be MotoGP champion, especially before the season has even begun but this year, there are so many names that you have to think will at least be podium contenders, and a good few of them could be in a position to mount a serious title challenge.
Firstly, Pecco Bagnaia put up a great fight to Fabio Quartararo last season, and he will be looking to take advantage of the worries Fabio has about the speed of the Yamaha and become the first VR46 Academy rider to take the premier class crown.
Marc Marquez revealed during pre-season testing that he is back to full fitness – can he take a 9th world title? I wouldn’t bet against him. Alongside Quartararo and Marquez, Joan Mir is the only other premier class champion on the grid in 2022 and with the addition of Livio Suppo to the team, he and Suzuki will be hoping that they can build on last season’s 3rd place and regain the MotoGP title.
Others that I think might be in with a chance of mounting a title challenge are Franky Morbidelli (if he is back to full fitness) and Jorge Martin. I haven’t named anyone from KTM or Aprilia because I’m not sure that they can fight for the title this season – KTM do have a new team boss though, with Francesco Guidotti being drafted in from Pramac Ducati so there may be some changes there that can help improve results. As for Aprilia, they have only just secured their first podium in the current era of MotoGP so while I think more podiums (and maybe even a win) might be possible this season, I don’t seem them being able to trouble the top 3 of the championship.
So, my prediction is that the 2022 MotoGP champion will be one of either Fabio Quartararo, Pecco Bagnaia, Joan Mir, Marc Marquez, Franky Morbidelli or Jorge Martin. I know 6 options is a lot, and no I will not pick just one, but those are my picks for MotoGP success in 2022. We’ll see how that goes!
One of the things I quite like about the run up to the start of a new season is the team presentations. Actually, it’s not so much the presentations that I like (although some of them are pretty good), it’s the finding out what the bikes are going to look like for the season ahead.
There’s always a lot of opinion online about the liveries, and whether they have changed enough or not enough, and this year was no different. There was the usually moaning that the factory Yamaha and Honda bikes would just look exactly the same, and I’m of the opinion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Sure, the Repsol Honda livery isn’t one of my favourites, but it is one of the most recognisable and has been for years, which is exactly what both the manufacturer and the sponsor want at the end of the day.
The Repsol Honda does look slightly different this season to be fair, but it is a minimal change with more white at the front that we have seen in previous seasons. The LCR Hondas once again have different main sponsors for each rider meaning that we again see Alex Marquez with Castrol backing (and very little change to his livery), and Taka Nakagami with the Idemitsu branding which is blacker than in previous seasons.
The factory Yamaha looks pretty much the same as it did last season, with prominent Monster Energy sponsorship, while the RNF Yamaha obviously looks completely different from last season having changed names and sponsorship. I’m not a fan of the RNF livery – there’s too much going on in terms of cramming a lot of sponsors onto the bike – its more akin to a Moto3 team that relies on several smaller sponsors as opposed to the usual one bigger sponsor.
Over at KTM things have remained pretty similar to last season – the Tech3 machines stay orange and black, while the main change to the factory livery is a white background to the Red Bull branding.
While the factory Ducati machines retain a similar design, the shade of red has been changed to ‘Ducati red’ for 2022 and so the bikes look slightly darker than we have been used to in previous years. The Pramac livery has to be my favourite this year – it has more blue than last year and combined with the red and white I just think it looks great. I’m sure Frenchman Johann Zarco is a big fan of the colour scheme too!
Gresini’s Ducati livery is an odd shade of blue with red highlights, but I think it will grow on me as the season progresses. The final Ducati livery on the grid is that of Valentino Rossi’s Mooney VR46 team, and honestly, I expected better. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but I was seriously underwhelmed when they pulled the covers off of those bikes! I understand that a big part of livery design comes down to the sponsor and what colours / logos they need to see on the bike, but when the team was in Moto2 and Moto3 classes (and even Luca’s bike in MotoGP last year) and they were sponsored by Sky, the bikes were immaculate.
If you haven’t seen the bikes, they are black and grey with stripes that are two shades of yellow (one for VR46, the other for Mooney) and I just don’t like it. I know, I know – I sound like a toddler being forced to eat broccoli, but that’s how I feel – I really don’t like it! I don’t think the two shades of yellow go together for a start, and there is so much black and grey that it looks more like a testing livery than an actual race livery.
Talking of black bikes, the Aprilia remains mostly black this season, although there is a slight change with the Aprilia branding taking a more prominent role and a touch of purple that wasn’t there before. Lastly, the Suzuki machines have stayed largely the same although they do now feature a black background for Mir and Rins’ race numbers on the front.
I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the liveries under the lights at Qatar – who knows, maybe even the ones I don’t like will look good!
Finally, we have been treated to the trailer for the new eight-part documentary series ‘MotoGP Unlimited’ which will premiere on Amazon Prime on 14th March – and it looks pretty good. Those who have been lucky enough to have previewed a few episodes have said that it is full of great content, and I cannot wait to see it, although I am hoping that it will be released all at once rather than having to wait a week for each new episode – a detail that has yet to be released by Amazon.
So, that’s it – pre-season is over and its officially race week again and I have to say that I’m really looking forward to this season, I think it has the makings of a real belter!