With the 2022 MotoGP season kicking back into life this weekend at Silverstone after an unexpectedly long five-week summer break, it’s also time for the final pieces of the 2023 silly season to drop into place as well.
More than half the grid is already signed up, of course, but there are still some very significant moves to happen as the grid continues to reshuffle following the shock news of Suzuki’s departure at the end of this year.
Throwing a spanner into the works for many riders and upsetting the plans of Joan Mir and Alex Rins in particular, with both hoping to continue with the team for 2023, it means that we’re perhaps delayed from finding out exactly who will be in what colours next year – but shouldn’t have too much longer to wait to know.
Martin vs Bastianini
The question of who’s going to be on the second factory Ducati next year alongside Pecco Bagnaia is one that we at least almost have an answer to, with Ducati being completely open that it’s now a battle between Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini to replace Jack Miller.
The deadline for a decision is set to be some time around the Austrian Grand Prix later this month, meaning that an announcement at Ducati’s home round at Misano at the start of September wouldn’t be much of a surprise.
Despite a strong start to the year for Bastianini that featured three wins, it looks like the odds have now tipped in favour of Martin, whose own start to the season was beset by crashes and the lingering after-effects of last April’s massive fall at Portimao.
The (decent) consolation prize
Whichever of the Martin/Bastianini pair doesn’t end up in factory red will remain with the manufacturer at first-tier satellite squad Pramac Racing.
Ducati stressed that whoever ends up having to ‘settle’ for the Pramac ride will suffer no contractual downgrades relative to the other, and have the same spec of machinery and same level of support.
Nonetheless, and despite the snazzy new look of the Pramac bikes introduced mid-season, it’s just not quite the same as the prestige of the full-on Ducati red, is it?
Whoever gets the Pramac ride will be joined by Johann Zarco, who, while yet to be announced, is interested in staying and has the team’s backing to do so.
All done bar the announcement
Expect no change at VR46 for 2023, even if we haven’t yet had it officially confirmed.
The team is happy with both Marco Bezzecchi (a podium finisher last time out at Assen) and Luca Marini (making big improvements all through the first half of the season), and it’s hard to see either heading elsewhere, especially with Ducati’s logjam at Pramac and the factory team.
The main loser in that is Moto2 championship-leader Celestino Vietti, of course, with no space for him not just at his own team’s premier class effort but anywhere else on the MotoGP grid either, leaving him stuck in the middleweight series for at least one more year.
Superteam unofficially secured
Just because there hasn’t been any official word just yet confirming Joan Mir at Honda doesn’t mean that the deal hasn’t been done – and the fact that Mir hasn’t been in contention for any other previously open seat (such as the LCR spot taken by Alex Rins) is a pretty big hint that the 2020 world champion is going to be joining Marc Marquez in 2023.
When exactly we can expect the news to come out is anyone’s guess, but even as soon as this weekend’s British Grand Prix wouldn’t be a huge shock to anyone.
Fight for the ‘Japanese’ seat is only going one way
Having committed to Rins as a replacement for Alex Marquez, LCR has been fairly coy on which way the wind is blowing for the other ride, which is backed by Japanese company Idemitsu – with it being largely portrayed as a matter for Honda to decide.
It’s known to be a case of Moto2 rider Ai Ogura versus incumbent Takaaki Nakagami, and Ogura’s 2022 performances have been solid enough to the point where there is virtually no expectation that Nakagami can hope to earn a stay of execution after five MotoGP seasons that have not featured any podiums.
Expect a reunion
It is clear that KTM has not prioritised keeping an unchanged line-up for Tech3, because it is known to have offered a spot there to Miguel Oliveira – left out of the works team following Brad Binder’s long-term contract and the signing of Miller.
But Oliveira has not accepted the proposal, and KTM will not stand in the way of his departure, instead seemingly electing to offer sanctuary to Pol Espargaro – a ‘lame duck’ at Honda now thanks to Mir, and someone whose best years in MotoGP so far were spent on a KTM RC16.
Despite a brief disagreement between KTM and his manager, Remy Gardner is set to be kept on by the team.
KTM contract spat could be a hold-up
That in theory leaves Gardner’s team-mate Raul Fernandez out, but KTM has been insistent it retains an option over Fernandez’s services, hinting that it will take a financial agreement to extricate him out of his contract.
Only Aprilia’s soon-to-be satellite team RNF is in position to act on this, having already been heavily linked with Fernandez when it was still the Petronas-backed Yamaha satellite team RNF.
RNF has Darryn Binder and Andrea Dovizioso on the books right now. Dovizioso has shown less than zero public interest in extending his MotoGP career beyond 2022, while Binder wants to be in the mix but is realistic in admitting he’s not first choice. But he is at least a presumed fallback if KTM’s demands over releasing Fernandez prove prohibitive.
Whatever the case, Oliveira appears to be a lock for the other side of the garage.
Likely 2023 MotoGP line-up
Ducati: Pecco Bagnaia/Enea Bastianini or Jorge Martin
Yamaha: Fabio Quartararo/Franco Morbidelli
Aprilia: Aleix Espargaro/Maverick Vinales
KTM: Brad Binder/Jack Miller
Honda: Joan Mir/Marc Marquez
Pramac Ducati: Johann Zarco/Enea Bastianini or Jorge Martin
Gresini Ducati: Alex Marquez/Fabio di Giannantonio
VR46 Ducati: Marco Bezzecchi/Luca Marini
RNF Aprilia: Miguel Oliveira/Raul Fernandez
Tech3 KTM: Pol Espargaro/Remy Gardner
LCR Honda: Alex Rins/Ai Ogura
Riders in italics = deal not officially done or announced yet