MotoGP represents the pinnacle of two-wheeler racing and shows the skillset of some of the fastest riders in the world. It is hard to imagine but we have already reached the mid-point of the season with 11 of the 20 races over already. There has been a lot of action, excitement and drama so far and here is a look back at how each manufacturer has been doing so far!
At the opening race in Qatar, all eyes were on Yamaha and Fabio Quartararo, the defending world champion. It is no secret that Yamaha has the slowest bike on the grid this season and that has been hurting their overall performance. Despite this, the French rider seems to be squeezing his M1 for every ounce of performance it can deliver and not making many mistakes on Sundays. Except for the Dutch TT where he crashed twice during the race and could not finish, Fabio has been staying inside the top 10 and secured three race wins. The consistency has helped him climb to the top of the riders’ championship charts with a score of 172 points so far. In fact, in the constructors’ championship, Yamaha also has 172 points and stands in second place, mostly due to the results secured by Fabio.
His teammate Franco Morbidelli has not had the same fortune, however. His best result of the season has been P7 in Indonesia, barring that, he has always stayed out of the top 10 but remained in the points during most races.
Their satellite team, WithU Yamaha RNF consists of Darryn Binder and Andrea Dovizioso who find themselves with ten points each so far. Binder has only finished in the points in two races thus far while his teammate has done the same in four races.
In my eyes, Aprilia has been the underdog that has been punching above its weight and making waves this season. Aleix Espargaro has been at the top of his game and found a great connection with his bike. One can see his determination in the way he rides his RS-GP and how badly he wants the world championship. Aleix finished third in four consecutive races and won the race at the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit. His standout performance has to be during the last race in Assen where he was almost at the back of the pack in P15 due to Fabio running into him. The Spaniard did not lose heart and came across the line in fourth place after a breathtaking double overtake in the second last corner on the last lap. We can also not forget the emotional race win in Argentina which was a first for both the rider and the team.
2022 saw Maverick Vinales move from Yamaha to Aprilia. With a new bike under him, it has taken Vinales a little while to find his footing. He suffered only one DNF and that was due to an issue with his ride height device. When his fellow rider was taken out of podium contention at Assem, Vinales stepped up to the occasion and achieved a podium finish.
It must be noted that despite having just two riders, Aprilia has managed to secure third place in the constrcutors’ championship thanks to some great race results. However, the Italian manufacturer is not going to be alone next year. They will partner up with RNF to create a satellite team.
This is a team that has been making the headlines but not for reasons that they would have liked. After a great start to the season where both riders were finishing in the top five and having the only machine on the grid that could challenge the straight-line speed of Ducatis, the manufacturer announced that they will be exiting the sport after this season. The announcement came as a shock to all, including the riders and must have had a big impact on their morale as both seemed to have lost that magical touch and found themselves crashing and not finishing races.
Alex Rins did not complete four consecutive races among which Catalonia was not his fault. He was swept off the track by Takaaki Nakagami and suffered a wrist fracture. The injury resulted in him not competing in Sachsenring. The best Joan Mir has been able to do is P4 in three races but with four DNFs, he has not had a great track record either.
It seems like the Japanese manufacturers are going through a tough time this year. Repsol Honda’s start rider, Marc Marquez started the season with some trouble getting in sync with his machine. He suffered a major accident during the Indonesian GP and later decided to retire from this season to go for his fourth surgery. Despite this, the eight-time world champion managed some astonishing results on a bike that was rather hard to control.
While Pol Espargaro had a stellar start with a podium finish in the first race, he has been struggling to stay in the top 10 for the rest of the races. Marc Marquez’s replacement, Stefan Bradl has also been at the tail-end of the pack. All these problems have seen the manufacturer find itself at the bottom of the constructors’ championship.
Both LCR Honda riders have also been trying their best to grab onto as many points as possible but it has not been the easiest journey. Takaaki Nakagami has been able to find a better rhythm with his RC213V and finished in the top 10 three times. The Japanese rider could do far better if he takes puts in a bit more concentration. Meanwhile, Alex Marquez achieved his best result in Portimao when he finished seventh.
Ducati has the most number of bikes on the grid this year with a total of eight bikes, spread across four teams. While their riders have had mixed fortunes this season, the sheer number of bikes in contention has propelled Ducati to the top of the constructors’ championship. They also have the fastest bikes this year and have been almost unbeatable on long straights.
The Ducati Lenovo Team consists of Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller. Bagnaia has three pole positions to his name and has been a key contender in the rider’s championship. However, the Italian rider has been a bit too keen on occasions and suffered crashes that ended his race. So far, he has not been able to complete four of the 11 races. While Jack Miller might not have had the chance to stand on the top step this season, he has finished on the podium three times. Barring Argentina, Catalonia and Italy, he has been getting decent results. All of this, however, has not been enough for him to keep his seat and the Australian rider is set to leave Ducati at the end of this season and join the KTM factory team.
Johann Zarco is the Ducati rider with the most points and has been giving a consistent performance so far. The only thorn in his side is the lack of a P1 finish. The French rider managed to come rather close on two occasions but had to settle for P2. Fellow Pramac Racing rider Jorge Martin has seen some decent results in the last few races but the rider has not had a race-winning pace so far. Even after starting on pole in Austin, he finished P8.
If there is another Ducati rider that has been in contention for winning races apart from Bagnaia, it has been Enea Bastianini. He has shown amazing results in the opening race of the season and a few others. However, much like Pecco, the Gresini Racing rider has also suffered from a lack of consistency and had less than stellar results in many races. The other Gresini Racing rider is Fabio Di Giannantonio who did not have a great start but has been showing better results during the later stages. He even managed to secure a surprise pole position start in Italy.
The fourth Ducati team on the grid is Valentino Rossi’s Mooney VR46 Racing Team. This is Marco Bezzecchi’s first season in the premier class and while the young rider has had three DNFs, he has also achieved some good results to balance it out. His second-place finish in Assen helped him gain a few points over his fellow VR46 rider, Luca Marini. Marini himself has had a very good season and bagged points in all but three races so far. The Italian rider has also not crashed during a race, further allowing him to have a clean record.
KTM has been in the middle of the pack in almost every sense. Their best performing rider has been Brad Binder who came second in the opening race and has been consistently finishing in the points except for Portugal. He has been fighting a good battle and keeping his KTM just inside the top 10 in almost every race. His teammate Miguel Oliveira is often found close to him on race days. Oliveira finished in ninth place in the last four races and scored a race win in the second race of the season.
KTM’s satellite team Tech3 consists of two rookie riders – Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez. The two have been doing a good job of staying in the fight with more experienced riders but have mostly found themselves finishing outside the points. KTM riders seem to have a great race pace and are able to recover positions but a weak qualifying result often ends up limiting their chance of scoring better.
What is next?
MotoGP resumes on August 7 with the 12th round being held at the celebrated Silverstone circuit. Hopefully, the mid-season break would have give the riders a chance to reset and the teams a chance to iron out any issues. Fabio Quartararo would be trying his best to stay focused and not repeat the mistakes made in Assen. He knows that any mistake he makes would give Aleix Espargaro a chance to pounce to the top of the charts. The 21 point difference between the two means that this year’s championship could belong to anyone.
But with nine more races to go, one cannot rule out a Ducati rider being the world champion in 2022. Johann Zarco, Francesco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini are all going to try and fight for the title too. As mentioned earlier, if Bagnaia and Bastianin are able to be more consistent, they could make things rather exciting for the second half of the season.