2022 MotoGP | Who is favourite, who will surprise, who is struggling? Pt.II

Winter is behind us and that means the 2022 MotoGP World Championship season is almost upon us... but who is looking hot in the Qatari desert this weekend?

Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory

The 2022 MotoGP World Championship kicks off with this weekend’s Qatar MotoGP with anticipation high as the 24 riders and 12 teams bid to take on Fabio Quartararo for his hard earned title.

The teams have already completed six days of pre-season testing in Malaysia and Indonesia, but while the timesheets don’t tell the full story, that doesn’t mean the beginnings of the season arc aren’t beginning to emerge

So, as engines fire up for the first time this year, who is heading into the year riding a confidence wave and who is treading water? (Pt.I HERE)


Significant step forward makes Suzuki one of favourites heading to Qatar

After the high-profile shock of its 2020 MotoGP title win, Suzuki endured the ‘second-year blues’ in 2021 as its defence struggled to penetrate the Yamaha, Ducati and (occasional) Honda stronghold at the front of the field.

With the manufacturer adopting a conservative approach for 2021, it has gone back to the drawing board for 2022 with a re-developed GSX-RR designed to bolster the strengths of the existing package - tyre preservation and a tidy chassis - while working on maximising its lacklustre qualifying and bringing the engine up to speed.

The measures seem to have worked with the GSX-RR getting rave reviews from Joan Mir and Alex Rins during pre-season testing, placing it in the top three heading to Qatar with Ducati and Honda.

Both reported significant gains in engine performance, while Mir appears to have tapped back into the superior race pace that fuelled his consistency-based run to the title.

It means Mir is seeking a new Suzuki deal for 2023 having been tempted by the interest of Honda, but team-mate Rins faces a pivotal opening few rounds to convince the team he has eradicated the errors that blighted his 2021 campaign.


Questions marks heading to Qatar but Oliveira, Binder could surprise

The manufacturer with arguably the biggest workload to sift through following pre-season testing, KTM’s position in the MotoGP hierarchy remains unclear at the moment. 

Having suffered for a poor start to the year twelve months ago, the factory KTM team might benefit and lose out simultaneously from a rider pairing with points to prove.

Miguel Oliveira’s form dipped on the back of his injury during the second-half of the year but the three-time race winner has demonstrated he has the pace - if not the consistency - to compete at the front of the field.

Team-mate Brad Binder measures on the opposite end of the scale, showing unwavering consistency to stealthily work his way into the top six overall even if he often saw his Sundays hampered by lowly grid positions.

As for the RC16, it was off the pace in Sepang but showed better form in Mandalika, with all riders reporting a lack of grip on corner entry hampering its efforts.

If Oliveira and Binder are the ‘elder statesmen’ of the KTM rider programme, then the next generation file in at Tech 3 Racing this year with Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez. Fierce rivals and team-mates in Moto2, the pair resume their inter-team fight on MotoGP machinery for 2022 with a clear target of defeating one another likely to be one of the more engrossing stories of the year.


Aprilia good for podium battle as it chases down first RS-GP win

Aprilia enjoyed its first significant step towards the front of the field in 2021 after years of modest development but there is an air of great expectation in its bid for the 2022 MotoGP season.

Identified by rivals as the bike that has improved most over the winter, while the RS-GP might not be knocking on the door of victory just yet, it looks to be handling well while it is also proving fairly potent in a straight line.

It also comes into the season armed with its most convincing rider line-up yet in Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales, the latter getting a full campaign with the Italian manufacturer after a handful of post-Yamaha outings in 2021.

Both have troubled the top of the timesheets in testing and though the RS-GP’s single lap form tends to flatter some deception, it is also performing much better than its predecessor over long runs.

Expect podiums at least, particularly if Vinales can rediscover the sporadic but devastating form that made him unbeatable on his day with Yamaha.