2022 MotoGP Mid-Season Review | The 5 MotoGP riders that need a break

The 2022 MotoGP season reaches its summer break - but which riders will be taking the heaviest stock as they look back at the opening half of the year?

Franco Morbidelli - Yamaha Factory Racing

The half-time whistle has sounded on the 2022 MotoGP World Championship season after an intriguing - if not always enthralling - start to the year that has yielded four race winners, 13 podium winners and a wheel of varying fortunes for the 24 riders.

Indeed, while a select few will be heading to the locker room with a smile on their face, there are also those preparing themselves for a drubbing down from the manager.

Nevertheless, the MotoGP season is far from over and with nine races still left to go, there is still time for a fair few riders to kickstart their campaign again.

But which four riders - and one team - have the biggest goals to aim for when they return from the break?

1 - Franco Morbidelli

Is Fabio Quartararo out-performing the Yamaha M1 or is Franco Morbidelli under-performing?

A bit from column A and a bit from column B is perhaps the most diplomatic assessment, but whichever way you look at it, this has been a humbling season for Morbidelli thus far.

A rider who in 2020 finished runner-up to Joan Mir with three victories to his name on a satellite Yamaha, it has been a while since we saw Morbidelli fighting at the sharp end, so much so we’ve become accustomed to seeing him languish towards the back end of both the points or the entire field.

And yet this is a quality, decorated rider on the championship-leading bike holding just a single top ten finish so far this year - making him the lowest placed full factory rider in the standings - while his last run to the podium came back at Jerez in 2021 (24 grands prix ago).

As for why, Morbidelli has admitted his riding style isn’t conducive to negating the M1’s well-publicised power shortfall, unlike Quartararo, whose aggressive and precise cornering is key to recovering those tenths lost on the straight and narrow.

While the struggles of Andrea Dovizioso suggests Yamaha shares some of the blame in Morbidelli’s troubles, it won’t stop the Iwata manufacturer focusing more on tuning the M1 away from the Italian and more towards his title-fighting team-mate.

A signed and sealed deal for 2023 eases the pressure, but Yamaha will be expecting a sizeable upturn in results during the second half of the year.

2 - Pecco Bagnaia

His current personal issues notwithstanding, Pecco Bagnaia was always heading into the second-half of the 2022 MotoGP season knowing he has something to prove.

Widely considered the pre-season favourite, Bagnaia’s campaign has lurched wildly between brilliant highs and excruciating lows, typified by his three DNFs and three victories over the most recent six races.

While his crash at the hands of an errant Takaaki Nakagami in Catalunya was in no way his fault, Bagnaia’s folds in Qatar, France and Germany from strong positions have arguably scuppered his title aspirations even at this early stage in the season.

It’s a sobering thought when you consider the vast 66 point margin to championship leader Quartararo, even though he has scored as many wins as the Frenchman.

It’s what makes his Sunday successes - in Jerez, Mugello and Assen - perhaps as bitter as they are sweet, in that they demonstrate Bagnaia is arguably Quartararo’s closest rival in terms of pure pace yet leave him with a net zero in terms of points.

3 - Team Suzuki Ecstar

While there is never a good way to deliver bad news, most try to avoid doing it in a bad way too.

Unfortunately for members of Team Suzuki Ecstar - including riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir - the bombshell announcement its MotoGP programme was being axed came as much of a shock to them as it was for everyone else.

A decision made back in Japan with neither the knowledge nor the input of anyone in the team itself, it came abruptly too with both riders apparently just days away from re-signing for 2023, while Suzuki had not long signed a contract with Dorna committing it to MotoGP until 2026.

While the reasons as to why are largely conjecture at the moment, it nonetheless revealed a startling disconnect between Suzuki top brass and a MotoGP team that only two years ago was heading towards its first world title in 20 years.

To their credit, both Rins and Mir - as well as team members - have remained stoic and professional in the face of uncertainty, but it is perhaps no coincidence the momentum in Suzuki’s 2022 campaign has waned since Jerez. 

With three double non-scores from the last four races, while Suzuki will want to head out of MotoGP once more on a high, it might take an emotive rallying cry to energise some subdued troops.

4 - Andrea Dovizioso

There have been moments during this season when it seems abundantly clear Andrea Dovizioso is wondering whether he’d have been better off not returning to MotoGP and instead settling into retired life.

Indeed, while you can certainly understand the motivation behind Dovi’s big comeback on the RNF Yamaha, he - like Morbidelli - is unable to sharpen his famously smooth riding style in order to wring the best from the M1.

Having taken up residence towards the back of the field for much of the year, an unmotivated Dovizioso appears a shadow of the rider that in 2017, 2018 and 2019 was the closest thing to a rival for Marc Marquez.

Contracted by Yamaha rather than RNF Racing itself, it’s evident Dovizioso isn’t a factor in the Malaysian outfit’s impending switch to Aprilia machinery in 2023, with all indications the Italian will hang up his leathers properly at the end of the year.

In a career that has seen him start an extraordinary 245 MotoGP races since 2008, he has nine more remaining to ensure it doesn’t conclude on a whimper…

5 - Jorge Martin

Regardless of whether Ducati selects Enea Bastianini or Jorge Martin for the prized vacant seat alongside Pecco Bagnaia in the factory team for the 2023 MotoGP season, the final nine races for the latter remain crucial.

Ducati’s star pupil of 2021, Martin rose in the manufacturer’s affections with a series of brilliant headline-grabbing performances during his rookie campaign

As a result, while its expectations - namely a smoothing of some rougher edges in terms of consistency - may have been heightened for Martin’s sophomore season, few doubted his passage towards a factory deal in 2023 was all-but-a-formality.

Instead, Martin has spent the first half of the year trying - and largely failing - to wrestle his spotlight off Bastianini, whose three wins have been in stark contrast to a season of copious errors and scattered form for Martin.

It’s a trend that has defined Martin throughout his career with a results card across the Moto3, Moto2 and MotoGP seemingly proving he is as fast as he is fragile come race day, with Ducati no doubt hoping for more of the former in 2022.

While it remains to be seen which rider will get the nod from team bosses - with a decision expected to be made during this summer break - either way, the remainder of Martin’s 2022 MotoGP season will either need to justify Ducati’s faith in signing him or prove it wrong.