Who will replace Alvaro Bautista at Honda for the 2022 WorldSBK?

As Scott Redding leaps to BMW and Alvaro Bautista switches to Ducati, who will land the available full factory seat left vacant at Honda for 2022 WorldSBK?

Leon Haslam, Alvaro Bautista - Honda WorldSBK

The 2022 WorldSBK Championship ‘silly season’ embarked on a few twists and turns over the past few weeks as Alvaro Bautista’s return to Ducati was confirmed and Scott Redding penned a deal with BMW.

The shifting sands in the rider market have subsequently left open what would normally be a very tempting spot at Honda… but it isn’t entirely clear who Honda is eyeing, or who really wants to go.

Indeed, for a team with such clout in terms of reputation (and budget) it is telling there aren't many obvious riders tripping over themselves to get on the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade and off to the bank. 

It has been a trying couple of years for Honda with its latest ‘Blade with the bike proving modestly quick but arguably no more competitive than when it made its debut at the beginning of the 2020 WorldSBK season. After all, when was the last time the Honda received any notable airtime during races?

Bautista's exit is likely to strengthen Leon Haslam's chances of staying, the ultra experienced Briton having measured up well against the reputed Spaniard in 2020  - level on points in fact - even if the 2021 campaign has lurched from disappointing to anonymous. 

There is no guarantee Haslam is in Honda’s plans but with development moving slowly, it would benefit from a mix of continuity and fresh blood.

Perhaps the most likely candidate to replace Bautista is Chaz Davies, a multiple race winner and experienced developer, albeit one that has fallen on hard times (literally and a lot) recently following a somewhat bitter Ducati factory exit and slightly begrudging arrival at GoEleven on a bike that is less to his liking than it was the previous two years.

Still, Davies is immensely quick on his day and statistically one of the most successful WorldSBK racers of all time. Honda could well be the perfect marriage of two figures needing to prove something.

Tom Sykes now ticks a lot of the same boxes having been dropped by the BMW works team for 2022. While we have perhaps seen his best days in WorldSBK, the 2013 champion is still a trusty weapon - especially over a single lap - and capable of imparting considerable knowledge to Honda. 

His former team-mate Eugene Laverty will likely be making calls, though we haven't seen the best form from the Irishman for some years.

In WorldSSP, experienced Moto2 race winner Dominique Aegerter has taken the middleweight series by storm with former Honda-partners Ten Kate Racing, making him a prime candidate for a WorldSBK graduation, his cause being inadvertently aided by the growing success of 2020 champion Andrea Locatelli’s encouraging form on the factory Yamaha.

Are any MotoGP riders considering WorldSBK?

Looking towards the GP paddock, Danilo Petrucci hasn't sourced a ride for 2022 following confirmation of his Tech 3 KTM exit, while other GP riders that might be considered include Iker Lecuona, who is reportedly also on the target list for MIE Honda and Orelac Kawasaki.

Or maybe a Moto2 rider like Sam Lowes or even Jake Dixon, the latter having finished runner-up to Haslam in BSB in 2018.

Alternatively, Honda might dip into the national ranks, either its own with Glenn Irwin, who perhaps rekindle a deal with dominant BSB championship leader Jason O'Halloran