MotoGP end-of-season report: Best rider, biggest surprise, most under pressure | MotoGP

Following several early errors, Bagnaia turned his season around by winning four races in succession, which began a run of results that included a total of eight podiums in the last ten MotoGP races of the year.

At the same time, Fabio Quartararo, who was well on his way to becoming a back-to-back MotoGP champion, faded as Ducati’s dominance finally became too much for the Yamaha rider to overcome. 

Often with four or five riders on the first two rows of the grid after qualifying, battling the Ducati’s was a tough task for everyone but several riders managed to pull off brilliant performances to do just that. 

Those included Alex Rins who won in Phillip Island and Valencia, Miguel Oliveira who took victory in Thailand and Marc Marquez.

Rider of the year – Francesco Bagnaia

World champion having overturned a 91-point deficit to Quartararo in just ten races, Bagnaia is the undisputed best rider of 2022 after taking five pole positions, three fastest laps and the most wins of any rider.

After three non-scores in four races prior to winning in Assen, plus a drink-driving offence in the summer break, the pressure was quickly mounting on the Italian’s shoulders going into the second half of the campaign.

Looking like the pressure of battling Quartararo was too much, Bagnaia instead managed to eliminate the mistakes and show incredible consistency that ultimately proved to be the biggest factor in him winning the title, along with sheer speed of course. 

Most impressive rider…

While Bagnaia took the Italian manufacturer to glory for the first time since 2007, Enea Bastianini proved to be a match for the factory Ducati rider on several occasions, which led to him securing a factory seat alongside Bagnaia for 2023 instead of Jorge Martin.

Bastianini was the main challenger to Bagnaia during the second half of the season as he finished runner-up twice after last-lap duels in Misano and Sepang, while the former Gresini rider also managed to get the better of Bagnaia in Aragon. 

Bastianini’s impressive form throughout 2022 led to him winning four races – second most on the grid – while a late charge saw him get the better of Aleix Espargaro for P3 in the championship. 

Speaking of Espargaro, the Aprilia rider suffered several unfortunate incidents during the final few rounds which resulted in costly DNF’s. 

Issues that were largely to do with his Aprilia machine and not individual mistakes, Espargaro would likely have taken this honour had that not happened and he secured third in the championship. But instead it’s Bastianini who claims ‘most impressive rider of the year’ from us at Crash.net.

Which rider disappointed the most?

While there were standout performances throughout the grid in 2022, a few riders failed to reach the expectations many had for them.

Two of the biggest names that we believe have to be mentioned are Franco Morbidelli and Martin.

Talking of the latter, it’s tough to say the Pramac rider had a disappointing season after securing five pole positions.

However, the Spanaird was unable to convert any of those into victory, and as we saw in Sepang, too many mistakes were also made from the 2021 rookie of the year. 

Martin crashed out of the lead in Malaysia while he also made a mistake when battling Jack Miller for a podium in Austria.

But with that said, Morbidelli suffered a dreadful 2022 campaign and one that without a factory contract already secured, would likely have seen him moved on for another rider. 

The Yamaha rider never got on terms with Quartararo and was way off the French rider’s pace for nearly the entire season.

While Quartararo was fighting for wins and podiums, Morbidelli, who was runner-up to Joan Mir just two seasons ago, recorded two top ten finishes all year which led to a 19th place finish in the championship. 

Who was the biggest surprise?

For different reasons Espargaro and Marco Bezzecchi were considered, but with the Aprilia rider remaining a title threat until the penultimate race, Espargaro has to be the biggest surprise of the 2022 season.

Yes, Aprilia and Espargaro began to show serious potential in 2021, but challenging the likes of Quartararo and Bagnaia for a world title would have been classified as a bold prediction before the season began.

But that’s exactly what Espargaro was as he showed incredible speed and consistency during the first half of the season, before gradually losing ground to his main rivals during the final few rounds. 

Which rider is most at risk of losing his seat in 2023?

Making a second appearance is Morbidelli as the Italian is out of sync with a lot of the major players when it comes to his contract.

Morbidelli is the only factory rider that is contracted until the end of 2023 and not beyond, which could lead to Yamaha having a lot of options.

One of those is likely to be 2021 WorldSBK champion Toprak Razgatlioglu, who has made it clear that MotoGP is of great interest to him. The 2024 season could also be Razgatlioglu’s last opportunity to move to MotoGP due to his age and the level of riders continuing to come through from Moto2 & 3.

Lin Jarvis, Managing Director at Yamaha, has already spoken about the team’s interest in Razgatlioglu, so Morbidelli is firmly under pressure to rediscover his 2020 form. 

What was the best individual performance of 2022?

Picking a winner in this category is very tough given the performances several riders managed to achieve. Espargaro’s first-ever MotoGP win in Argentina is of course a contender, as is Miller’s dominant ride at Motegi as he came through the lead group before disappearing into the distance.

The battles between Bagnaia and Bastianini highlighted just how high the level in MotoGP is currently at, however, our pick is Rins’s win in Phillip Island.

After dealing with injury and Suzuki’s shock announcement that they would pull out of MotoGP, Rins was able to find his best form at the right time and give the 2020 world champions the perfect send-off. 

Coming from tenth on the grid, Rins out-dueled Bagnaia and Marquez to win his first race since 2020. The Spaniard then replicated his success with another superb victory in Valencia.

Which Grand Prix gets our vote as best of the year?

While Silverstone, Misano, Aragon and Sepang all delivered great racing, Phillip Island once again showed us that many riders can be in contention due to the circuit layout. Lead changes, big groups fighting at the front and a last-lap battle was all on show at the Australian circuit which is why it gets the nod.

Who are the main contenders to become MotoGP champion in 2023?

Although Quartararo and Marquez were both left scratching their heads after the Valencia test as the expected improvements to the Yamaha and Honda machines seemed to be unfulfilled, it’s hard to look beyond those two making a run for the world title.

However, starting as the favourite will be reigning champion Bagnaia as Ducati have the most complete package on the grid.

One of Bagnaia’ biggest rivals for the title is expected to be team-mate Bastianini based on the form he showed in 2022.

If Bastianini was to become champion in 2023 then it would mark the fifth consecutive season where a different rider won the MotoGP title.

All eyes will also be on KTM and whether they can provide Brad Binder and Miller with a bike good enough to challenge.

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