After two years away due to the global situation, MotoGP returned to Australia with a traditionally spectacular race at Phillip Island.
While Alex Rins managed to get the better of the resurgent Marc Marquez in an epic final lap, to gift Suzuki potentially one last MotoGP win before their departure from the series at the end of the season, behind them, the 2022 title race took another big step towards being completed.
There are now just two races to go until the season draws to a close, and remarkably, there are still four riders who mathematically still have a chance of finishing the year as World Champion – that number may have been five were it not for the helpless Jack Miller being wiped out by Alex Marquez on his home circuit, and through the corner named after his just a day before, in Sunday’s race.
But just how likely is it that each of those contenders will be the one to claim that title in Valencia in just under three weeks’ time?
In order to help find out, we’ve taken a look at the chances, and potential aims of that quartet who will still be dreaming of world glory, right here.
1. Pecco Bagnaia
It is now very much advantage Bagnaia, as the Ducati man continues to pursue his first ever MotoGP world title.
Having settled for third in Sunday’s race rather than risking a collision with two riders not concerned with the title fight in Rins and Marquez, the Italian is now 14 points clear at the top of the standings, with only 50 left to play for in the races to come at Sepang and Valencia.
Given he won around Valencia last year, and the fact that there are plenty of other Ducati riders who – as they have done in the past couple of races – can make life hard for his rivals, while not taking any risks around Bagnaia himself, things are currently looking very good for the 25-year-old.
Quartararo’s defense of the maiden MotoGP title he picked up last year went from bad to worse in Australia.
As the Frenchman tried to overcome the issue of riding a Yamaha that is currently nowhere near as strong as Bagnaia’s Ducati, two unforced errors meant he failed to pick up any points for the third time in four races, and he now has just one podium finish in eight starts.
That drop in form means it is hard to see him picking up the momentum needed to overhaul Bagnaia, especially considering that unlike the Italian, he does not have any teammates on a Yamaha who look like they can mix things up at the front, although, as the defending champion, there is no doubt he will fight on until the end.
3. Aleix Espargaro
He may be the only rider to have finished every MotoGP race this season, but it is starting to look as though things are slipping away from Espargaro, who has already well exceeded all expectations for Aprilia this year.
Even so, a disappointing ninth-place finish for the Spaniard in Australia means he now has just one podium in the last ten races, and trails Bagnaia by 27 points at the top of the standings.
Given his success with the win and podiums this year mean Aprilia will lose the advantage of the technical concessions they have had over the other factories from 2023, you can’t help but wonder if the 33-year-old’s big chance may now have come and gone.
4. Enea Bastianini
With a 42-point deficit to Bagnaia and just 50 left to play for, Bastianini probably needs more than a minor miracle if he is to win his first MotoGP world title this season.
Even so, a brilliant ride from the 15th on the grid to fifth by the checkered flag on Sunday – despite the airbag in his leathers activating early in the race – which was another reminder of how good he is, and only Bagnaia can better his tally of four race wins in MotoGP during 2022.
With Bastianini set to join Bagnaia in the factory Ducati squad next year, when the backing he receives ought to be just as strong as his fellow Italian, the coming campaign could be the one when the 24-year-old – who will still only be in his third season in the Premier Class – can really be considered a genuine contender.
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