We’re approaching the mid-point of the 2021 season, and with riders starting to be announced for 2022, how might the MotoGP grid shape up next year?
A number of riders entered 2021 already knowing they would have a seat for at least another couple of years, but there are still teams who are yet to unveil their plans.
Some of the big names in the premier-class are yet to reveal what they will do next year, such as Valentino Rossi who is still to decide on whether he will carry on for another year, or retire from MotoGP.
Who is already signed on for 2022?
Before we look in detail at which riders could be on the MotoGP grid next year, it’s worth giving a reminder of which teams already have their riders sorted, albeit some teams are yet to fill their second seat.
Here is a list of the riders already under contract, and the year which their deal is set to run out:
Team Suzuki Ecstar – Joan Mir (2022), Alex Rins (2022)
Monster Energy Yamaha – Fabio Quartararo (2022), Maverick Vinales (2022)
Repsol Honda – Marc Marquez (2024), Pol Espargaro (2022)
LCR Honda – Alex Marquez (2022), Taka Nakagami (2022)
Pramac Racing – Johann Zarco (2022), Jorge Martin (2022)
Ducati Lenovo Team – Jack Miller (2022), Pecco Bagnaia (2022)
Red Bull KTM – Brad Binder (2024), Miguel Oliveira (contract length unknown)*
Tech3 KTM – Remy Gardner (2022)
Petronas SRT – Franco Morbidelli (2022)
Aprilia – Aleix Espargaro (2022)
Team VR46 – Luca Marini (contract length unknown)*
Gresini Racing – Fabio Di Giannantonio (2022), Enea Bastianini (contract length unknown)
*Unconfirmed but close to official
Who could go where?
The biggest question that remains in the MotoGP paddock, and has been the main topic of conversation for quite some time is what will Valentino Rossi do? Ultimately, the Italian holds the fate of what will happen with the second SRT seat, so should he decide to remain in the premier-class for a further season, the seat will (potentially, more on this in Part Two) be his. But, should the 42-year-old decide to retire from the sport there will be a spot up for grabs.
So, should The Doctor announce his retirement (he is expected to announce his plans around the summer break), then who are the most likely candidates to partner Franco Morbidelli at the Sepang Racing Team?
One choice that would please the British fans is Jake Dixon, who is currently with SRT’s Moto2 squad. The young Briton is struggling to get to the front of the pack in the intermediate-class however, and at the moment sits 18th in the World Standings with 11 points and a best finish of seventh at the Qatar GP.
But sometimes form in Moto2 can’t provide the bigger picture of a rider’s potential.
The best example of this is Fabio Quartararo; the 22-year-old struggled in the intermediate-category, only achieving two podiums (one of which was a win) in his two years racing in the class. So when Petronas SRT took the young-Frenchman on to make his MotoGP debut a lot of people raised their eyebrows, but now Quartararo is leading the championship this year and is easily the fastest rider on the grid.
If Dixon were to get a shot in the premier-class next year it would be fantastic for the British fans who don’t have a compatriot to follow in the MotoGP category this year. I think the 25-year-old has the talent, we’ve seen glimmers of that during his time in Moto2, he just needs to get results on the board in the upcoming rounds to try and convince the Petronas SRT squad that he is their best choice.
Another option for the Sepang Racing Team is their other Moto2 rider Xavi Vierge, who is eager for a jump into the premier-class after nearly six years in the Moto2 category. The 24-year-old can’t seem to have a breakthrough season however, finishing in the top-10 of the World Standings just once and with four podium finishes currently to his name.
The Spaniard is on course for his best season yet sitting eighth in the championship, and is another rider who if given the chance, could shine in the MotoGP class just like Quartararo. I believe the Petronas SRT outfit will look at their two Moto2 riders as the main choices should Rossi retire, and if this is the case, it could be a while before any decision is made.
With Remy Gardner already locked in with the Tech3 team as a rookie in the premier-class next year, there is still another vacancy to be filled with the French team on the MotoGP grid should they decide to drop both Danilo Petrucci and Iker Lecuona.
The main choice and who looks like the most likely option is Moto2 rookie sensation Raul Fernandez. The Spaniard looks to be right at home in the intermediate-class with five podiums (including two victories) to his name in the first seven races of his time in Moto2, meaning he sits second in the championship and just 11 points shy of Gardner.
Putting the 20-year-old into MotoGP with just one year under his belt in Moto2 would be a risky move, but it would make sense in my eyes. Fernandez is part of the Red Bull talent pool, meaning he will already be first choice for KTM to put him in a Tech3 seat.
With the speed, talent and composure shown in the first seven rounds, who’s to say he won’t make the same start to life in MotoGP as he has in Moto2?
KTM will also be wary of other factories making a move for the young Spaniard, just like when Ducati essentially stole Jorge Martin from KTM’s grasp last year after Pramac Racing signed the 23-year-old on a deal which now runs until the end of 2022. So it might be wise for the Austrian team to lock Fernandez firmly into their plans, just like they have done with both Binder and Gardner.
Should KTM decide to give Fernandez another year in Moto2 to develop further, it’s likely either Petrucci or Lecuona will stay on with the team for an extra year until the Spanish-talent is ready to make the jump up into the premier-class.
If this is the case, I wouldn’t be surprised to see KTM sign a deal with Fernandez for 2023 early next year, just to make sure no other factories can steal him away.
How do you think the Petronas SRT and Tech3 line-ups will look in 2022? Be sure to keep an eye out for part-two of this feature, where I will look at who could fill the final places on the MotoGP grid at Aprilia and Team VR46.