Tonight (AET) sees the first practice sessions for the Assen TT, the final round of the first half of this year’s MotoGP season. And, as usual at this time of the year, the silly season is in full swing so I thought I’d give you all something on which to ponder during the next 5 weeks until the second half of the season kicks off.
There has already been 8 confirmed confirmed placings for 2023 so quite a lot has happened already, let’s map it out.
Repsol Honda: Marc Marquez (end of 2024) and ? Pol Espargaro is almost certain to be released from his contract and the current talk is that his place will be taken by 2020 World Champion, Joan Mir. I believe that this will make for a strong team, I’ve always been perplexed why Honda let him go to Suzuki in the first place. Quite where Pol will end up is anybody’s guess.
Monster Yamaha: Fabio Quatararo and Franco Morbidelli. Fabs is contracted till 2024 and Morbs till end of 2023. I think Yamaha would be happy to let Morbs go but the contract is a problem and, barring a miracle in signing out-of-work Alex Rins, I think the Yamaha squad will stay intact.
Lenovo Ducati: Pecco Bagnaia and ? With Miller’s departure to KTM, Ducati must consider its options from the available stock. The best choice would undoubtedly be Johann Zarco but most consider him to be too old despite being one of Ducati’s best performers this season so far. The two riders who are in the frame at the moment are Enea Bastianini and Jorge Martin. Of the two, Martin is a much better rider in my opinion but he is still coming back from injury so it is a little difficult to assess his true potential.
Aprilia: Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales. The outstanding performers so far this year, Aprilia has moved quickly to secure a stable setup with both riders being contracted till the end of 2024. Mav is an enigma, capable of extraordinary feats one weekend and a dismal performance the next, I hope The Noale factory hasn’t shot itself in the foot.
Red Bull KTM: Jack Miller and Brad Binder. A strong line-up which could be hampered by the factory’s seeming inability to deliver a winning bike every weekend. Inconsistency is their worst enemy. Present incumbent Miguel Olivera seems certain to be headed elsewhere and the rider seems pretty grumpy about being offered a seat at Tech 3, so rumours about him heading to Gresini are circulating.
And, with the departure of Suzuki, that’s all the factory teams. No confirmation about where their two riders are heading though, as mentioned, Mir is probably going to Honda.
Gresini Ducati. Incumbents Enea Bastianini and Fabio di Giannantonio have been brilliant this year but both run out of contract at the end of this year and the head-hunters are out, especially for The Beast.
RNF, who switch from Yamaha to become the Aprilia satellite team. Dovizioso, who has had an abysmal season, will almost certainly retire at the end of this year when his contract runs out. Darren Binder’s contract with Yamaha runs out at the end of this year but he does have an option for 2023. No 2nd rider confirmed for this team as yet.
Tech 3 KTM. Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez. Both riders are nearing the end of a 1 year contract and have had pretty poor seasons thus far though it could be argued that this is more due to bike deficiency rather than rider. Team boss is at pains to get people to cut the two riders some slack as it is their first year in the category.
LCR Honda. Incumbents Taka Nakagami and Alex Marquez end their contracts with the team at the end of 2022 and neither has done much to justify their retention for 2023. Being a Japanese rider will probably not be enough to save Taka, especially with Ai Ogura doing so well in Moto2 so far this year. Honda may well feel that both of the incumbents have had more than their chance at the top.
PRAMAC Ducati. Johann Zarco (end of 2022) and Jorge Martin (end of 2022) have done pretty well this year with Zarco’s last 4 outings yielding him a 5th, 4th, 3rd and 2nd. It could all change here, especially if Jorge gets the nod for the “works” team (he should).
Mooney Ducati. Marco Bezzechi and Luca Marini (both end of 2022). Of the two Luca has been the standout but the team could change completely if they decide to blood some up-and-coming Moto2 stars. In any event I expect to see Marini stay purely on the basis of his kinship to the team owner.
And that’s it so far. At the time of writing (1426 on the 24th) this is correct but expect that all to change (sort of) when FP1 for Moto3 kicks off in a couple of hours 🙂
SO: After FP1. Alex Marquez looks certain to leave LCR but heavily rumoured to be joining Gresini. Zarco confirmed to stay at PRAMAC. Rins rumoured to LCR Honda. Marquez confirmed at Gresini replacing Bastianini.