Final pieces of 2023 MotoGP jigsaw almost in place - who goes where?

There are still several seats up for grabs for the 2023 MotoGP World Championship but after much uncertainty the final pieces of the jigsaw are settling

Start of the German MotoGP

MotoGP heads into its final round before the summer hiatus in the unusual position of having more empty seats up for grabs on the 2023 MotoGP grid than filled… but that looks set to change over the next couple of weeks.

As has become customary ahead of the next two-year cycle of contract negotiations, MotoGP teams with an eye on a particular pairing will attempt to pull them off the rider market quickly to prevent distraction on track.

It means most seats are usually filled by the end of May, but with MotoGP now closer and more unpredictable than ever, most teams had been allowing the 2023 season to unfurl in order to gauge form, while predictions suggested most factory line-ups would remain static.

This all changed, however, with Suzuki’s bombshell that it would quit MotoGP at the end of the season, pitching 2020 World Champion Joan Mir and front-runner Alex Rins into the mix as well.

Which MotoGP riders are confirmed?

The top two teams in rider standings - Yamaha and Aprilia - have opted for an unchanged rider line-up with Fabio Quartararo re-signed alongside the committed (albeit woefully out of form) Franco Morbidelli at the Japanese firm, while Aprilia won’t mess with its Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales formula after a breakthrough campaign.

Elsewhere though, change is coming with Ducati still pondering over whether to promote Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini to its factory team alongside Pecco Bagnaia.

Martin was long considered the favourite but a slew of crashes against Bastianini’s three wins on the privateer Gresini Ducati GP21 seemed to tip things out of his favour. However, the Italian’s form has dipped in recent rounds as the pressure grew, prompting Ducati to delay its decision until the summer break. 

It could therefore make this weekend’s Dutch MotoGP in Assen a crucial event for the future of both, even if the ‘loser’ will still get a guaranteed berth at Pramac Racing on a de facto works machine.

The rider one of them will replace, Jack Miller, meanwhile is KTM-bound for 2023 having secured a deal to join Brad Binder and replace one of the silly season’s big question marks, Miguel Oliveira.

Which MotoGP riders are close to a deal?

With the summer holidays just around the corner, there appears to be some momentum to get a few key riders and sealed before a hard-earned break.

Having gone from almost re-signing with Suzuki to becoming free agents overnight, Joan Mir and Alex Rins nonetheless look set for a future with Honda from next season.

Having been linked with a swoop from Honda over the winter, HRC looks set to land their man with the Spaniard - despite a dip in form since Suzuki’s exit call - regarded as the rider to cover any losses from Marc Marquez, whose long-term fitness and future in the sport remains unclear having been forced to undergo yet more surgery that will put him out for much of the 2022 season.

Paddock talk suggests a deal has already been signed but Marquez’s uncertain future also places emphasis on the satellite LCR Honda effort to hire a quality rider that could step in if the Spaniard is unable to get back to his best.

That rider will be Rins, the three-time race winner on course to get a factory-spec Honda RC213V in place of Alex Marquez. He is expected to be joined by title-fighting Moto2 graduate Ai Ogura, who will fulfil sponsor Idemitsu’s remit to have a Japanese rider on the grid by replacing the out-of-favour Takaaki Nakagami, who has been linked with joining Stefan Bradl in a development role.

Despite rumours in Germany that he was about to sign with Gresini Ducati - speculation he firmly denied in an Instagram post decrying a certain media outlet - KTM-exile Miguel Oliveira is now expected to pen a deal with the RNF Aprilia team.

Having confirmed its defection from Yamaha to Aprilia machinery, RNF Racing has been chasing several high-profile riders, with Oliveira coming out on top. The four-time MotoGP race winner has struggled for consistency amid the silverware, prompting KTM to offer a Tech 3 seat for 2023, a deal he publicly rejected.

Elsewhere, despite being the highest-placed Ducati rider in the standings, Johann Zarco doesn’t appear to be in the frame for a factory seat. Nevertheless, the consistent - albeit still win-less - Frenchman is almost certain to stay with Pramac Racing for 2023.

And Fabio di Giannantonio’s recent upturn in form - including his shock pole at Mugello and first top ten result in Germany - looks set to earn him a stay of execution at Gresini Ducati for 2023.

Which riders are still looking for MotoGP rides?

Arguably the big loser from all of the upheavals around him is Pol Espargaro, who having made the high-profile switch from KTM to Honda just as the Austrian team was hitting its stride and the Japanese marque began to lull, is now without a seat at all for 2023.

The Spaniard hasn’t sparkled during his Honda stint, while a particularly frustrating run of results just at the critical moment Honda was considering taking a punt on the Suzuki pair have compounded his issues.

Though he is still searching for his first win, Espargaro remains an asset and once Rins and Oliveira’s deals do go ahead, it will likely make him the hottest property on the rider market. 

As for where he goes remains unclear though. He has an excellent advocate in his brother Aleix to land at RNF Aprilia, but team boss Razlan Razali is more likely to favour a young protege for its vacant seat.

Alternatively, there is talk of a return to KTM, albeit at Tech 3. While recent form and Oliveira’s assessment indicates it would be a demotion for the ex-factory KTM man, his knowledge of the RC16 could help pull the two factions together and move them forward up the grid again.

Despite its year-old machinery, Bastianini proves Gresini Racing has front-running credentials to make it a more proposition despite aged machinery.

It too, however, could swing towards promoting young talent to replace Bastianini, with Moto2 championship leader Celestino Vietti a candidate if he cannot secure a spot in the VR46 Racing MotoGP outfit he represents in the intermediate class.

Indeed, Vietti’s Moto2 form has come at the wrong time since VR46 Racing might see no reason to alter its impressive line-up of Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini. Bezzecchi has been arguably the pick of the rookies this year, while Marini - after two fairly nondescript seasons in the top flight - is on a run of strong form with a trio of six results in the last three races.

They were the runaway champions in Moto2 last year, but it has been a chastening rookie MotoGP campaign for Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez at Tech 3 Racing.

Judging by KTM’s movements in the rider market, one of these riders will be out, most likely Fernandez who has been somewhat vociferous about his desire to look elsewhere.

He is the favourite to land one of the RNF Aprilia seats alongside Oliveira, though fellow Spaniard Aron Canet has also been linked with the seat.

Gardner, meanwhile, is expected to stay at Tech 3 KTM alongside perhaps Espargaro, though this could change if experienced and in-form Moto2 title contender Augusto Fernandez carries his form through to the title.

2023 MotoGP Team & Rider Line-up [provisional]
Team Motorcycle*Riders [confirmed - rumoured]
Yamaha Factory RacingFYamaha M1Fabio Quartararo
   Franco Morbidelli
Ducati CorseFDucati GP23Pecco Bagnaia
   Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini
Honda HRCFHonda RC213VMarc Marquez
   Joan Mir
KTM Factory RacingFKTM RC16Brad Binder
   Jack Miller
Aprilia RacingFAprilia RS-GPAleix Espargaro
   Maverick Vinales
Pramac RacingSDucati GP23Johann Zarco
   Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini
LCRSHonda RC213VAlex Rins
   Ai Ogura
Tech 3 RacingSKTM RC16Remy Gardner
   Pol Espargaro, Augusto Fernandez
Gresini RacingSDucati GP23/22Fabio di Giannantonio
   Pol Espargaro, Celestino Vietti
VR46 RacingSDucati GP23/22Luca Marini, Marco Bezzecchi, Celestino Vietti
   Miguel Oliveira
RNF RacingSAprilia RS-GPRaul Fernandez, Aron Canet, Darryn Binder,