The winners and losers of the Argentinian MotoGP race

Round three of the 2022 World Championship saw a new winning rider and manufacturer, but who goes to America as a winner, and who goes as a loser?

Aleix Espargaro, 2022 Argentinian Grand Prix podium.

MotoGP's return to Argentina and the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit saw three new podium finishers for the season, making the total for 2022 nine out of a possible nine. At the same time, others did not have the Argentinian Grand Prix they would have hoped for, and the result is a championship that sees the top four covered by nine points.

Winner - Aprilia/Aleix Espargaro

The first 'winner' is obviously Aprilia. For a significant proportion of their time back in MotoGP as a factory effort - beginning in 2015 - Aprilia have been the factory with the most work to do, the most disappointing results, and the least encouraging performances. 

Even when the RS-GP was revolutionised in 2020 - the introduction of a 90-degree V4 instead of the narrower-angle 'V' they used previously - it was not an instant fix. The chassis and - in particular - electronics had to be adapted to make use of the new-found power, and it was not until 2021 that the solutions to the bike's problems were realised. 

In Silverstone last year, Aprilia scored their first podium in the four-stroke MotoGP era of Grand Prix racing, and set new records for themselves in the time difference between their leading rider and the winner at the chequered flag. But the first win remained elusive.

The RS-GP took another step forward for 2022, and Aleix Espargaro fought for the podium at the season opener in Qatar. A somewhat anonymous Indonesia followed, as the Aprilia did not gel as well with the harder construction rear tyre Michelin took to Mandalika to deal with the possible extreme heat of the Indonesian climate, and Espargaro missed the speed of the podium runners in the wet conditions of the race. 

Practice in Argentina was delayed due to problems in the freight reaching Argentina after the Indonesian race, so was pushed back to Saturday. Even still, Espargaro was fast from the outset, and in Saturday's pre-qualifying FP2 session he ran in the low-1:39s, where everyone else was limited to mid-to-high-1:39s. 

A debut pole position for Aprilia on Saturday put Espargaro in the perfect position to chase the Noale brand's first win on Sunday, and he then topped Sunday's warm up session by over a quarter of a second. 

Espargaro's start did not go perfectly to plan, and he slipped to fourth in the opening stages. But he was able to fight back through to second place early on, and tailed race leader Jorge Martin in the opening half of the race.

Mistakes on lap 10 cost Espargaro time, but his speed advantage compared to Martin allowed him to recover within a couple of laps. More mistakes were to come from Espargaro, as he out-braked himself twice into turn five trying to pass Martin, but finally he got the move done on lap 21. 

Surprisingly, Martin was able to match Espargaro's pace for three laps after the pass,  but on the penultimate tour of Termas, he began to drop back, and Espargaro's final lap was relatively straightforward. 

Aprilia's win was also Espargaro's. The Spaniard has been with Aprilia since 2017, when their best result was sixth (scored that year in Aragon by Espargaro), and has been an integral part of the RS-GP's development. 

The recently-released MotoGP Unlimited series saw Espargaro reveal that in the 2020 lockdown, Espargaro was considering retiring from racing. His decision to continue has finally resulted in his first Grand Prix victory. 

Espargaro's win came on his 200th start. A milestone for him personally, and for MotoGP statistics, as the #41 set a record for the most starts before achieving a first win. 

Arguably, Espargaro's lack of success could have justified him losing a place in MotoGP altogether, but the Spaniard's work ethic has proven successful for Aprilia, and in return that success has been reflected on Espargaro.

 Winner - Alex Rins

The second 'winner' of the 2022 Argentinian Grand Prix is Alex Rins, who took his second successive podium, again beating his teammate, 2020 World Champion Joan Mir. 

Rins finished the third race of the year in third place, having matched the pace of the leading duo of Martin and Espargaro for most of the race, and closing in on them towards the end. Suzuki appear to have married their extra power for 2022 with strong tyre consumption, and they were able to demonstrate that in Termas. 

Rins was the better of the two Suzukis on the day, but Joan Mir was not far behind. Rins' form, though, is currently impressive. Back-to-back podiums for the rider whose 2021 season was plagued with crashes, overriding and poor choices shows a positive change in his mindset for 2022. At the current point, Rins could very well be the title favourite.

Winner - Marco Bezzecchi

'Winner' number three for Argentina is Marco Bezzecchi, who scored his first top 10 in MotoGP. 

The Mooney VR46 Racing Team did not have any bikes- or any freight at all - at midnight on Friday, yet they qualified on the front row with Luca Marini on Saturday; won the Moto2 race and scored their first top 10 of the season in MotoGP on Sunday. 

Particularly for Bezzecchi, the ninth place he scored was impressive. A bad start saw him fall to 20th, but in the end he was only 2.4 seconds behind reigning MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo - and was the top Desmosedici GP21, ahead of Qatar GP winner and former championship leader Enea Bastianini - at the chequered flag.

Bezzecchi's pace was strong, too, running regularly in the 1:39s, before dropping into the 1:40s in the final four laps as the tyre wear entered a phase undiscovered in practice. It will be interesting to see how Bezzecchi continues to develop in his rookie premier class campaign. 

Loser - Honda

Onto the 'losers,' and the first has to be Honda. They led 17 laps in Qatar, but have not hit the front since. Marc Marquez was out before the weekend with a new diplopia episode after his Indonesian warm up high side, and Pol Espargaro was out on lap 15 in a typical RC213V low-side. 

Takaaki Nakagami was due to miss Argentina, but benefitted from the delayed freight, which allowed him to receive a negative PCR test and book a flight to Argentina in time to make Saturday's running. The Japanese started well, moving up to seventh on the first lap, but then moved back to 12th by the chequered flag. Alex Marquez scored one point in 15th, but showed no speed of note through the whole weekend. 

Honda's chances for Texas this weekend seem to depend on the condition of Marc Marquez, which is not a totally unfamiliar situation. Assuming he is unfit, hopes will likely rest once again on Espargaro, whose best result at the Circuit of the Americas is sixth, which he scored back in 2014, his rookie premier class year.

Loser - Yamaha

Argentina's second 'loser' is Yamaha. Franco Morbidelli's race was over on the first lap when he had problems with his rear tyre; Fabio Quartararo's race was blighted by (shock) a lack of top speed, which led to him being stuck in the pack as he was in Qatar, which in turn led to him suffering with front tyre pressure and temperature. 

On the satellite side of things, Darryn Binder missed the points, but was only 2.9 seconds behind top rookie Raul Fernandez at the chequered flag, but Andrea Dovizioso made perhaps one of the most frustrating errors from a team perspective. 

On entry to turn one, Dovizioso thought his front holeshot device was locked. He returned to the pits, only to discover that in fact he had forgotten to disengage the system himself. He went back out and completed 22 laps, but an amateur error from the oldest rider in the class. 

Yamaha's biggest worry will be Quartararo's race, however. He was visibly angry after crossing the finish line, and, after his ninth place in Qatar, Quartararo has now scored only 15 points from the two races where Michelin have taken the standard, 2022-spec rear tyre. 

Quartararo scored an important second place at the 2021 Grand Prix of the Americas, and a podium this weekend would be of similar significance for his world title chances. 

Loser - Jack Miller

The final 'loser' of the 2022 Argentinian Grand Prix is Jack Miller, who remains without a podium this season, and finished 14th in Termas. 

It would have been quite possible to place Miguel Oliveira in this final 'loser' position. However, this is a contract year for Miller, so his results are of increased importance at the moment, and while Oliveira had won in Indonesia, Miller's best result from the opening three races has been fourth.

His teammate, Francesco Bagnaia, has already signed a new contract extension with Ducati, and seemed to turn a corner with this year's Desmosedici on Sunday in Argentina. That means Miller is in direct competition with Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini for the second 2023 factory Ducati seat. 

Bastianini won the season-opening race in Qatar, and Jorge Martin recovered from two non-finishes in the opening two races to score a first podium of the season in Argentina. The pressure is on Miller, but fortunately for him, the Circuit of the Americas is one of his best tracks on the MotoGP calendar. He needs to make the most of that.