2022: a decisive year for some factory drivers

These drivers are likely to be in the spotlight ahead of a big season in 2022 as most driver contracts expire

With the exception of Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), who have contracts with their respective factories extending beyond 2022, every driver on the grid has a contract that ends next season. It therefore means that the upcoming campaign is huge. For every rider. But some – arguably – more than others, especially those occupying factory seats who are eyeing other drivers.

So let’s take a look at some factory riders who seem to be under a little more pressure to perform than their teammates.

Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar)

At the start of the 2021 season, Alex Rins was one of the favorites for the title. However, the Spaniard had a tough season and finished in 13th place overall, compared to 3rd place in the previous year. Rins’ only podium was secured at Silverstone with a well-deserved P2 compared to four in 2020, but what cost Rins the most was the DNFs.

Rins crashed six times in 2021 while being his freak Bicycle accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya he saw him break his wrist. 2022 will be a great year for Rins, who will be hungry to regain the form that made him the late 2020 title contender.

Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing)

2021 was a strange year for Miguel Oliveira. KTM in general struggled with a poorly performing RC16 at the start of the season before Oliveira clinched three consecutive podiums in Mugello, in Barcelona – his victory – and at the Sachsenring. Oliveira was back. However, a crash at the Red Bull Ring set the tone for the Portuguese’s second half of the season.

Oliveira only scored nine points between Styria and Valencia, and although injuries played a role, the bike and rider just didn’t fit. 14th overall, compared to teammate Brad Binder in 6th place – and the rise of the new Tech3 KTM Factory Racing rookie pairing Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez – means the KTM factory headquarters will be a hot property.

Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team)

The transition from KTM to Honda did not go as smoothly as Pol Espargaro and HRC had hoped. The Spaniard ended his debut year on the RC213V in 12th place, but that’s not the whole story. None of the Honda riders felt comfortable with the 2021 package for much of the season, and despite some tough moments, there were some highlights: pole position in the British GP and second place in the Emilia-Romagna GP.

Signs of promise have been seen, but when you’re team-mate to eight-time world champion Marc Marquez, the pressure is always there. Marquez’s contract runs him until 2024. So if Honda wants to make a change in the factory line-up, Espargaro will have to give way. The angel number 44 has the talent, will, work ethic, and everything in between to ensure he is a frontrunner in 2022. It will be an intriguing watch, especially when the exciting brand new machine from HRC hits the table.

Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing)

We mentioned that 2021 would be an odd season for Oliveira, but no one could have predicted what year Maverick Viñales would have survived before the lights went out in Qatar. The Yamaha stories are well documented so you won’t have to go back to them. But after that Viñales’ new adventure took him to Aprilia, where there was a very promising RS-GP.

Viñales finished in the points twice in five starts, the outstanding performance with his Emilia-Romagna GP P8. Its adaptation to a completely different type of motorcycle – from Yamaha’s inline four to Aprilia’s V4 – is still in the works, but Aprilia expects big things from their new addition in 2022. Everyone is because we all know how much talent Viñales has.

Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team)

The problems Jack Miller faces despite winning two races and finishing fourth in the World Championship is the rider line-up of Ducati’s independent team and the fact that he is a team-mate of Francesco Bagnaia. It says a little of the obvious, but it’s true. Miller’s campaign was far from bad, but Bagnaia put in a sensational second half of the season to be the only rider to put pressure on eventual world champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP).

Rookie of the Year Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing) won a race, took three more podiums and took four pole positions. Enea Bastianini (Team Gresini Racing MotoGP) was on the podium twice. The silly MotoGP ™ season is brutal and if Miller is to remain a factory Ducati rider in 2023, great results will be needed in early 2022. It has to be said, however, that Ducati is apparently very, very happy with Miller. and your first year in a works team is never easy. The Ducati battles are one to watch very carefully.

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All of these drivers are on factory teams for one reason: They are incredibly fast. It will be incredibly fascinating to see the decisions being made about who goes where on the entire grid in the 2023 season. Some factory tremors are very likely, but at the moment nobody knows where they will be coming from. We can only look forward to the races in 2022.

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