The 2022 MotoGP season kicked off at Qatar yesterday, and it kicked off in style. I don’t think there is a MotoGP fan in the world that could have predicted the outcome. World Champions struggling to get in the top ten, season favourites wiping each other out, and a Repsol Honda in the lead that doesn’t have Marc Marquez sat on it. That’s why we love MotoGP.
1st Enea Bastianini – 10/10
A textbook ride. A perfect ride. Made even better by the fact that now, the Ducatis don’t seem to have the same power advantage when it comes down to the straights. And made better by the fact that It’s only Bastianini’s second year in MotoGP, and the fact that he’s the only non-factory rider in the top seven, as well as a bunch of other reasons.
I’ll be honest though, I can’t say I’m surprised. The former Moto2 Champ showed what he was capable off a few times last year, and I reckon his win yesterday is going to be the first of many. He kept his head, took advantage of the fact that it was a long race and didn’t bother using his tyres up to get to the front of the pack early on. That showed real intelligence and race-craft. A future MotoGP champion? Possibly. Fausto would be proud.
2nd Brad Binder – 10/10
Full marks would normally be the reserve of the race winner, but Brad Binder did a sterling job on a bike that I don’t think anyone expected to see on the podium at Qatar. Not after their slightly lack-lustre performance in the preseason tests, anyway. But when the flag drops the bullshit stops, and all that. He was the only KTM in the points, though, so maybe KTM do need to work on their package.
3rd Pol Espargaro – 9/10
Not only was the way Pol lead (most of the race) from the front impressive, it was also surprising. Well, it was to me anyway. It’s the best I’ve ever seen him ride, and proof that Honda needn’t pin all their hopes on Marc Marquez because they’ve definitely got a potential winner in Pol.
I was convinced he was going to win when he pulled the pin and, for a few laps, maintained a one-second-plus lead. But I think his lack of experience at the sharp end of a MotoGP race showed. He used too much of that soft rear tyre (and probably too much fuel), and that was it, he started to go backwards. Still, third’s not a bad effort.
4th Aleix Espargaro – 8/10
For a moment or two, I thought there was going to be two brothers on the MotoGP podium, for the first time since Nobby and Takuma Aoki stood side by side on the box at Imola in 1997. Alas, it wasn’t to be, but it was still an impressive fourth from Aleix. When your nine-time MotoGP race winning teammate (Maverick Viñales) can’t even manage a top-ten finish on his Aprilia, to almost put yours on the podium has to be considered a good day at the office.
And to go head to head with Marc Marquez in the closing laps of a GP, and come out on top, is something very few MotoGP riders will ever experience. I think there might be an Aprilia race win this year. And I think it might be Aleix’s Aprilia.
5th Marc Marquez – 7/10
I’ve said on a number of occasions that although I think MM93 will be a possible title contender, I don’t think we’re about to see a return of the dominance he’s previously shown. However, there were a few times yesterday when I thought I was going to have to eat my words. I know he never actually led the race, but I had a sneaking suspicion that he was playing the game, hanging back, getting ready to pounce. He’s a wily old fox; you don’t become an eight-time-world-champ without learning a few tricks.
But it wasn’t to be. Perhaps he’s not back to 100% physically, or they need to do some work on the bike. Or perhaps everyone else is as fast as he is, now. I’m opting for the latter.
6th Joan Mir – 7/10
Mir was another rider that I thought looked strong enough in the opening handful of laps to put in a proper fight. And those Suzukis? Wow. They’ve found some serious pace. It wasn’t enough for Mir to hang onto the shirttails of the leaders though.
We all know that sixth place is alright for Mir. If you keep banging top six finished in, with a few podiums here and there, you can win a championship. Like he did in 2020. And let’s not forget he finished third in last years championship, without winning one race. He’s a plodder. Keep on plodding, Joan.
7th Alex Rins – 7/10
He finished the race, so that’s fairly good for Alex ‘Bins’ isn’t it? He might have been able to use that new-found Suzuki power to piss past 2020 Champ Fabio Quartararo’s Yamaha, but he couldn’t use it to keep up with the leaders. Maybe next time.
8th Johann Zarco – 5/10
I’d almost forgotten Johann Zarco was in the race during the first few laps, when he was scrabbling about for the last few points scoring positions. But to be fair to him, he pulled his finger out and made up a bunch of places. Granted a few of them were handed to him on a silver platter, but you take them however you can get them.
Part of me expects better than 8th from Johann Zarco because he’s one of the most experienced riders on the grid now. As well as being a double (Moto2) World Champ. Then again, if he hasn’t won a MotoGP race yet (never mind a championship), will he ever?
9th Fabio Quartararo – 4/10
Ninth position from the reigning World Champ is, you’d have to say, substandard. There was good progress made at the start, but it didn’t last long, so I don’t know if there was an issue. I’ve got a feeling it was a lot to do with the fact that his Yamaha doesn’t have the legs it needs. KTM, Suzuki, Aprilia and Honda, straight-line speed-wise, seem to have stepped up to the level of Ducati. But Yamaha don’t.
Will it be a different story at a circuit with some more corners and not such a long straight. Yamaha will definitely be hoping so.
10th Takaaki Nakagami – 6/10
Another rider to be semi-gifted a top-ten finish, but you’ve got to be there to take advantage of it, and Taka was. For me, Nakagami is one of those riders that you just don’t know what you’re going to get, with. Barely a points scorer one weekend, fighting for a podium the next. To be fair though, it’s not very often he does fight for the podium these days, so a top-ten’s probably an alright result for him. Nice one Taka.
A quick word on the Pecco Bagnaia / Jorge Martin crash
Some might argue that there was no need for Bagnaia to put such a ‘hard move’ on Martin, particularly since they were only racing for eighth position. In all fairness though, I don’t think it was really a hard move at all. It ought to have been a fairly safe one. A simple out-braking, nip-up-the-inside pass. Unfortunately Bagnaia tucked the front in the middle of it, which wiped both himself and Martin out.
Yes, it was entirely Bagnaia’s fault, but it wasn’t dangerous riding pers se. It was just really unfortunate.
And by the looks of it, Jorge understood that. There was no arms waving about, or fisticuffs in the gravel trap, just a sincere looking apology from Pecco, and a gentlemanly display of good sportsmanship from Jorge. Well done.