2022 silly season: a crucial few weeks coming up

MotoGP™’s latest contract signing period is in full flow – we look at what deals are done, and what’s spinning on the rumour mill

Before we even got to Round 1 of the year in Qatar, MotoGP™’s silly season was in full flow. This year, the majority of riders’ contracts are ending, and such is the situation we find ourselves in these days, putting pen to paper is something that is sorted as soon as possible. Francesco Bagnaia and Ducati Lenovo Team have demonstrated that perfectly when the Italian signed a deal until the end of 2024 before the Grand Prix of Qatar.

But there’s plenty of unknowns left on the table. We’ve decided to have a rundown of what is left to be sorted out in the coming weeks and months in the MotoGP™ silly season, with just four riders currently signed up for 2023 and beyond.

Rider contracts sorted so far

With Pecco’s signing confirmed, it’s now four riders in the MotoGP™ field that can relax knowing their place on the grid is sealed until – at least – the end of 2023:

From there, things start to get interesting. Very interesting.

Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ and Quartararo

However, to say Quartararo looks set to leave Yamaha wouldn’t be quite true. They’ve formed a formidable partnership over the last three seasons in MotoGP™ and on their day, they’re unbeatable. But having said that, the longer we don’t hear about Quartararo signing a new deal with the Iwata factory, the more worrying it will be for Yamaha. Where does he go if a new contract doesn’t come to fruition? Every factory will be interested in snapping up the 2021 World Champion, surely. Factory Yamaha Team Manager, Massimo Meregalli, confirmed that Quartararo has received proposals from other factories. It’s a case of watch this space, closely, with Yamaha and Quartararo.

What happens to Andrea Dovizioso and WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team rookie Darryn Binder also remains to be seen. It was a very quiet weekend in Qatar for the experienced Italian, who isn’t gelling as quickly as anticipated with the YZR-M1, while the South African was able to mix it with his fellow rookies. If results don’t start picking up for Dovizioso, staying for another season seems an unlikely option. 

Suzuki: will Mir and Rins stay put?

Then there’s 2020 World Champion – Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). The pre-season talk surrounding Mir was that a move to HRC was on the cards. The Spaniard even responded “you never know” to the question, but Suzuki’s performance gains on the 2022 GSX-RR has seen those rumours go a bit quiet. The priority for the Hamamatsu factory and their new Team Manager, Livio Suppo, will be to nail down their premier class World Championship winning rider for the foreseeable. And it looks more likely that this will be the case than it did a couple of months ago.

On the other side of the garage, Alex Rins also needs his future deciding. Pre-season testing and Qatar were huge positives for Rins and Suzuki as a whole. But race day was somewhat of a disappointment for both riders. Rins is under more pressure to perform than Mir after a lowkey 2021 season, but there is no doubting the Spaniard’s potential. Will the three-time MotoGP™ winner stay put in Suzuki? It could go either way, and it could depend on other moves.

Ducati and their second factory seat – a big one

Who lines up alongside Bagnaia in 2023? It’s one of the biggest answers we’re waiting to find out. The talent swimming in Ducati’s pool is phenomenal, so they have a problem on their hands. A good, but tricky problem. Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) won two races last year and finished fourth in the World Championship. The first handful of races, you’d think, will be decisive for the Australian if he’s going to hold onto that wanted seat. What we do know is Ducati are massive fans of Miller. He gets on well with Pecco. He’s a team player. And, as proved, he’s a race winner.

However, Miller has a couple of issues in the form of Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) and Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™). Martin, the 2021 Rookie of the Year, and Bastianini, the opening night race winner of the 2022 season. Both riders are making sure their names are right under the noses of Ducati’s hierarchy, and if either rider got the gig at this stage, there wouldn’t be too many surprised faces. Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) also has a chance, but as the only non-race winner from the aforementioned names, the Frenchman needs to reel off a huge first few races to get his name ahead of Miller, Martin, or Bastianini.

Then, to throw another spanner in the works, what if someone like Quartararo or Mir becomes available? Only Ducati know the answer to that.

Mooney VR46 and Gresini Racing’s Di Giannantonio

Pol Espargaro’s Repsol Honda Team seat has been a hot topic during pre-season. As we know, Marc Marquez is already signed up, so if Honda want to bring someone else into their factory line-up, Espargaro will have to make way. But that seems less likely than it did a month ago, with Espargaro impressing on the new RC213V. Finishing P3 in Qatar demonstrates Honda possess two incredibly quick riders, so why change that? Again, results over the next few weekends will be a big determining factory – as will what goes on elsewhere. But Pol Espargaro is doing all the right things to show Honda the grass might not be greener elsewhere.

Pol Espargaro and Honda

Pol Espargaro’s Repsol Honda Team seat has been a hot topic during pre-season. As we know, Marc Marquez is already signed up, so if Honda want to bring someone else into their factory line-up, Espargaro will have to make way. But that seems less likely than it did a month ago, with Espargaro impressing on the new RC213V. Finishing P3 in Qatar demonstrates Honda possess two incredibly quick riders, so why change that? Again, results over the next few weekends will be a big determining factory – as will what goes on elsewhere. But Pol Espargaro is doing all the right things to show Honda the grass might not be greener elsewhere.

The LCR Honda Castrol and Idemitsu seats are also up for debate. Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) is a rider many are tipping for a seat in MotoGP™ in 2023, but would that mean Takaaki Nakagami is heading for the exit door? Time will tell, but it’s safe to say the start of the season is hugely important for the Japanese rider. It’s also important for double World Champion Alex Marquez. The Spaniard has shown glimpses of what he’s capable of in the premier class, but 2021 and the start of 2022 have been slightly underwhelming.

KTM and their second factory seat – another big one

A rider whose future looks uncertain is Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). Brad Binder’s signature means there’s only one room left at KTM’s factory inn and we’ve talked about Ducati’s talent pool – KTM’s is just as deep. Reigning Moto2™ World Champion Remy Gardner (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) and Raul Fernandez (Tech3 KTM Factory Racing) will be eying that second factory seat.

Then, what about the sensational Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo)? The 2021 Moto3™ rookie World Champion has hit the ground running in Moto2™, and if he strings together a Fernandez or Gardner type campaign this year, surely MotoGP™ beckons? Another factor in that is Acosta will be on the radar of all of KTM’s rivals. The same as Fernandez was last season. If Acosta produces an outstanding season and he wants a MotoGP™ move, KTM have to either find space or lose him to a rival. 

And what if Augusto Fernandez (Red Bull KTM Ajo) lights up the intermediate class Championship this season? Like Ducati, the Austrian factory have a good, but a very difficult problem to work out. On the other hand, if Oliveira begins to show the sort of form that has won the Portuguese star three MotoGP™ races, then it’s going to be incredibly difficult to not keep him alongside Brad Binder.

Aprilia – the most stable factory in the 2022 rider market?

For both Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, it’s difficult to see where their futures would lie if it’s not at Aprilia Racing. Espargaro has been a fundamental key in helping Aprilia become regular podium contenders, and at his point in his career, while he’s settled, happy and quick, there doesn’t seem to be much point in switching. His P4 in Qatar – a result that was Aprilia’s closest finish to a victory since their return to MotoGP™ – only magnifies the fact that Espargaro, should he and the team wish, is here to stay at Aprilia.

Viñales was brought in alongside Espargaro as Aprilia’s star signing. After his relationship with Yamaha ended like it did, Viñales seems happy at Aprilia. But results have, so far, flattered to deceive slightly. On his day, Viñales is a world-beater. And a couple of tweaks should see Top Gun doing what Espargaro is doing on the impressive RS-GP, so it’s difficult to see how the Aprilia Racing line-up changes for 2023. That, of course, doesn’t mean it won’t.

Where does Toprak Razgatlioglu land – if anywhere?

The one everyone is eager to learn. The reigning WorldSBK King’s cryptic tweet got that merry-go-round spinning into overdrive. The natural fit would be Yamaha because that’s who he races for in the WorldSBK paddock, and that’s who he has a Test booked in for during this season. But it’s not as simple as that. With the Turk’s undisputed talent, every factory in MotoGP™ will be monitoring this situation very closely indeed. Yamaha’s disappointing start to the 2022 season could also be a factor.

Razgatlioglu and his team will be craving a factory bike, too. Yamaha, if Quartararo stays, won’t have a factory seat available – just a factory bike that is currently occupied by Dovizioso. Will Razgatlioglu want to make the switch if he’s not in a factory team? He and his team will know the answer to that. If it’s not Yamaha, and if Razgatlioglu is coming to MotoGP™ in 2023, then wherever he lands will have a domino effect. 

Marc Marquez, Brad Binder, Bagnaia and Morbidelli can focus on racing and only racing, knowing they have contracts signed and sealed for next season. But elsewhere, the 2022 silly season is overflowing with unknowns. These next few weeks should see us learn a lot about what bikes the riders will be sitting on next season – so stay tuned. 

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