With rider negotiations fully underway for 2023, several riders could be looking at a move away from MotoGP after failing to convince through the opening six rounds.
Before commencing this list, it’s important to note that all current rookies are not being included.
So who are the four riders we believe to be most at risk of losing their MotoGP seat?
The first rider is Vinales as the Aprilia rider by no means has a secured future in the premier class.
Vinales, who has shown glimpses with the 2022 RS-GP (most notably at COTA) remains a long way away from team-mate and championship contender Aleix Espargaro.
Yes, Espargaro has a lot more experience with Aprilia, but Vinales hasn’t just had this season to familiarize himself with the bike, instead he completed five out of the last six rounds of 2021 and all of pre-season testing with the Noale- based manufacturer.
Should Vinales be replaced at Aprilia – no reason to suggest the team won’t be looking at both Moto2 and current MotoGP riders – then someone of his caliber would surely command interest from other teams right?
Well perhaps not, as Vinales would clearly be limited for options. His best bet would have been a return to Suzuki should Joan Mir or Alex Rins leave on their own terms, but with Suzuki set to quit MotoGP at the end of this year, that’s not a realistic option.
Returning to Yamaha is also a no-go, as is joining KTM who seem settled with their current structure. That leaves Honda who could show interest, however, someone like Mir is likely to be of greater appeal to the factory team.
Then we have Ducati who have expressed interest in Vinales before, however, the factory team is in a much different situation to a few years ago.
The Italian manufacturer has Jack Miller, Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini all fighting for a ride alongside Francesco Bagnaia in 2023, while those who don’t get that seat would likely make up the line-up at Pramac, not to mention Johann Zarco is still there.
It goes without saying that Dovizioso’s sabbatical year in 2021, plus decision to return to MotoGP with Yamaha has failed to match expectations.
Whether it be the 2019 bike he rode last year or this season’s 2022 machine, Dovizioso has been well off the pace, both in regards to scoring points with any consistency or matching world champion Fabio Quartararo.
There’s strong talk that Dovizioso could retire at the end of this season, which forms just one of the reasons we believe Yamaha will replace him.
The other is his results.
Despite a disappointing start to his MotoGP career with KTM, Raul Fernandez remains a big prospect and one that Yamaha tried very hard to snatch away from the Austrian manufacturer last season.
And with Fernandez seemingly keen to move away from Tech 3, signing the Spaniard to RNF in place of Dovizioso is very possible, especially since Fernandez is on a one-year deal that ends after this season.
The other name that could spell trouble for Dovizioso should he even want to continue is WorldSBK champion Toprak Razgatlioglu, who will have a test aboard an M1 later this year.
Second on this list is LCR Honda rider Nakagami. The Japanese rider remains without a podium in the premier class (is in his fifth season) despite showing so much potential, particularly in 2020.
But after failing to deliver in recent races, Nakagami is beginning to look like a rider under pressure. A fourth at Jerez last season was backed up by fifth at the Styrian Grand Prix, however, these are his only top five finishes over the season and a half.
Consistency has been a big issue for the 30 year-old, as has been his early race pace. In fact, Nakagami somewhat resembles Vinales in race conditions as he so often has pace come the final few laps, albeit it’s too late to make a charge up the order.
Nakagami’ strong backing from Japan is a reason why retaining him has and could be of interest to Honda, but with Ai Ogura looking like a star of the future in Moto2, Honda would want to keep Nakagami instead of a much younger Ogura, many think not.
If Nakagami is let go by Honda, then available options are going to look very dire, which is why a switch across to WorldSBK or a return to Moto2 looks more likely.
Finally we have Alex Marquez, younger brother to eight-time world champion Marc.
Like Nakagami, Marquez looked very strong in 2020 which was all the more impressive given he was a rookie.
However, 2021 and the beginning of 2022 have been a disaster for the former Moto2 champion.
Marquez has just one top five finish since Aragon in 2020 (Algarve Grand Prix last season), while crashes continue to plague his MotoGP career.
Whether it’s been testing or race weekends, Marquez has made mistake after mistake – would be acceptable if he was running at the front, but he’s not, instead far from it.
Marquez seemed to make a breakthrough at round five in Portimao, however, the Spaniard was once again the fourth best Honda in Jerez as he finished 13th.
Like Nakagami, other manufacturers are unlikely to have significant interest in Marquez, especially from a results point of view, which is why a return to Moto2 would likely be his best option should Honda opt not to re-sign him.