Place bets now | Our picks of who will fight for 2022 MotoGP World Championship

Visordown is predicting a four-way fight for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship ahead of the much anticipated Qatar MotoGP opening round in Doha

Joan Mir, Pecco Bagnaia, Fabio Quartararo

The long winter is finally over and with the first blooms of Spring comes new life, or in the case of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship, a fresh new season with bikes leaping over kerbs and riders frolicking in the pack.

With a new campaign of 21 races comes brimming expectation filled with pomp and expectation from riders that this will indeed be ‘their’ year.

Of course though there can only be one title winner… but which ‘one’ will it be? This is Visordown’s prediction of the four riders that will fight it out for the title in 2022.

Fabio Quartararo - Yamaha

With a touch more experience on his side, Fabio Quartararo could have been coming into 2022 with two MotoGP World Championship titles in his back pocket.

Indeed, had he been able to demonstrate the steadfast consistency to go with his raw - albeit too unrefined - pace in 2020, he probably had an easier draw to complete his first title. Nevertheless, despite the competition tightening up for 2021, Quartararo took a big step across the board to rebuff any end-of-season threats.

If anything, there is still more to come from the Frenchman on his side and pound-for-pound he is probably the best rider out there (save for maybe Marc Marquez at ‘full Marquez’), but his 2022 dreams seem to hinge on what’s underneath him. 

On the one hand Quartararo’s particular set of skills are made for the Yamaha M1. His precision and metronomic ability to turn it on when it matters works well with the Yamaha’s sweet chassis, but it is telling the Frenchman is certain this advantage is sacrificed in the pursuit of more ponies in a straight line.

Despite this, Yamaha has stuck to its guns, a move that has often worked in its favour but one that has clearly irked Quartararo, who cuts a somewhat defeated figure heading into the year.

While this might be a failing of the man himself, one can understand his frustration that he believes his 2022 title hopes will be dictated not by what he does on Sunday, but how he does on Saturday.

While qualifying is undoubtedly Quartararo’s strength, the fresh emphasis he will need to put on getting the most of his Saturday showing is perhaps a pressure he didn’t need.

While no-one can fault Ducati for wringing everything out of its package in terms of straight line speed, it’s a touch frustrating to see how hard other riders are working to get by only to watch the advantage disappear with ease the moment they come onto the home straight in Losail. 

Elsewhere, however, Yamaha does have the advantage but - judging by Ducati’s gains towards the end of last year - Quartararo evidently thinks he will be playing catch up in more than one sense in 2022.

So, how much lap time does that attitude equate to?

Pecco Bagnaia - Ducati

Twelve months ago Pecco Bagnaia came into the opening round of the 2021 MotoGP season as a relative unknown in a factory context having been shuffled up to the A team after Andrea Dovizioso’s place.

A positive campaign supporting Jack Miller’s title bid would have been labelled a success but instead the Italian came of age as Ducati’s leading contender. A sturdier first half of the season means the outcome might have been better than his eventual runners-up spot.

Fast-forward to now and Bagnaia is the man with a target on his back. A superb end to the 2021 season and a Ducati GP22 that has rivals worried has made Bagnaia the top tip for most and it’s a status he seems to be taking in his stride.

The omens look good for Bagnaia. A rider that often performed better in races than in qualifying, especially at the start of the last year, by the end of the season he was difficult to beat over a single lap, reeling off six pole positions in total.

Better still, if Bagnaia needed a venue to steady any nerves he couldn’t have hoped for a more suitable opener than in Qatar, where the GP22 is expected to be difficult to keep up with in a straight line.

Some sloppy errors in 2021 let him down so it’ll be a measure of how the Bagnaia of 2022 handles the pressure of expectation this year, but for now he is the man to beat.

Marc Marquez - Honda

There won’t be many outside of Honda that are hoping Marc Marquez rediscovers the pre-injury form that made him barely beatable pre-2020, but many certainly want to see him stack up against the new generation in what is primed to be a telling season for the Spaniard.

Indeed, this will be Marquez’s most challenging season yet in MotoGP on several fronts.

For a start, he will hope to have overcome the various different injuries that have afflicted him over the last couple of years and he will need to do it without overstepping the limits, something he at times struggled to do in 2021.

He will also need to figure out how to get the most from the new RC213V, which has undergone a major redesign that - crucially perhaps - hasn’t been entirely moulded around Marquez in an effort to better hedge Honda’s bets among its four riders.

He hasn’t found it easy thus far, but Marquez says he is closing on the sweet spot. So while there may be questions of Marquez still to answer coming into the year, it would be impossible to ever consider him incapable of a title bid.

Joan Mir - Suzuki

He may be a World Champion already, but Joan Mir seems comfortable flying a little under the radar coming into the season and is arguably a very savvy choice for title contention.

While his title defence in 2021 didn’t quite get going, it was a stronger season for Mir than perhaps his lack of race wins demonstrates. Brilliantly consistent and a hard-charging racer, Mir wrung the best from a Suzuki GSX-RR that evidently didn’t have any of the discernible advantage over its rivals as it did the previous year.

It means Mir comes into 2022 as a more complete rider capable of hard-grafting his way to good results on a middling bike, but this time on a Suzuki GSX-RR that rivals are predicting could take the fight to Ducati.

Indeed, while Suzuki found a fine compromise in 2020 with its blend of handling and tyre conservation without being left behind on the straights, this year it has taken a notable step forward in terms of power without sacrificing its rideability in the bends.

Mir has waxed lyrical about the gains, so provided he can maintain the very traits that took him to the 2020 title, he could be more of a favourite than many realise.

Who else is in the mix for 2022 MotoGP?

It’s a testament to the sheer depth of the 2022 MotoGP field that (nearly) every rider is perhaps capable of landing a podium this season, while a big portion of the field have race-winning chances too.

Fewer though are likely to mount a sustained title bid, though we’ve been surprised before (Mir, for instance).

After pre-season testing, two riders without wins looked very strong - Pol Espargaro and Johann Zarco.

Espargaro has adapted well to the Repsol Honda and has a point to prove amid talk the Japanese firm is shopping around for potential 2023 riders. If he can get his year off to a good start and Honda doesn’t default to moulding the new RC213V - which Espargaro has adapted to quickly - around Marquez, he could be a dark horse.

The attention might be on Jorge Martin, but Zarco finished top five overall in 2021 and has shown in the past that on a competitive bike he is a perennial front-runner. His lack of top silverware often sees him forgotten in pre-season predictions, but the Frenchman will benefit from what looks like a rapid GP22 and - in theory - has the pace to beat anyone in the Ducati fold.

Similarly, Jack Miller has parity with Bagnaia on the factory Ducati but a somewhat unconvincing showing in 2021 ups the pressure on him - will it inspire him to do better, or have the opposite effect?

There were moments in 2021 that suggested Miguel Oliveira could mount a surprise title bid before injury saw him fade away. KTM hasn’t looked too assured in testing but on their day, the combination of Oliveira and the RC16 is potent.

Similarly, Brad Binder isn’t touted for the title so much, but when you consider his race results and somewhat forgotten overall top six finish in 2021, a step forward in qualifying could see the South African be a very wily dark horse this year.

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