In recent years, grand prix racing’s middleweight class has well and truly established itself as the only real way to launch a MotoGP career, with only recent exceptions being World Superbike frontrunners Loriz Baz and Eugene Laverty back in 2016 and Italian Superbike champion Lorenzo Savadori late last year.
That means that we’ll undoubtedly be watching the next crop of premier class stars bursting into action this weekend as the Moto2 season gets underway at the Qatari Grand Prix.
So which of this crop of stars will be lining up on the MotoGP grid before too long? We take a look at the various names in the mix, and their potential.
(Almost) a sure thing
22 years old, Italy
If there’s one rider in Moto2 definitely destined for MotoGP, it’s Team Sky’s Marco Bezzecchi. He’ll start 2021 as one of the clear favourites, a key part of the VR46 Academy program, and someone who’s bsolutely got the talent needed to win not just in the middleweight class but in the premier class too.
Twice a winner last year and fourth in the title race, Bezzecchi has a clear path to MotoGP as two of the three riders who finished ahead of him last year are already there.
He’s almost certainly going to be the next of Valentino Rossi’s proteges to get the tip – and if Rossi’s team does subsume the Esponsorama Racing squad, then it’s all but a given that Bezzecchi will take Enea Bastianini’s seat.
Fabio Di Giannantonio
22 years old, Italy
Italian rider Fabio Di Giannantonio is rumoured to already have a deal in place that will see him step up to MotoGP next year, although the details of the deal rmain vague. With the Italian linked to both the late Fausto Gresini’s squad and to its partners at Aprilia, if Gresini Racing does become Aprilia’s satellite squad then he’s a shoo-in for a seat there.
To make absolutely certain of that though, he needs to match his bursts of intermediate-class speed with the consistency that took him to second in the 2018 Moto3 championship. His last four races of 2020 are the perfect example, with one excellent podium and three crashes. If he can make the podiums more regular than the falls, then he’s a shoo-in for the MotoGP grid.
23 years old, United States
It would be easy to say that Joe Roberts is on a fast track to MotoGP thanks to the flag he races under, but that would be unfair to the American rider given that he’s shown that he has the talent to succeed as well.
Already almost a MotoGP rider after turning down a strong Aprilia offer at the eleventh hour, he needs more this year if he wants to find himself with a better proposal in the future.
“More” in this case will be more podiums and his first win. Seventh in the title last year was a strong result, but he really needs to position himself as a title contender to ensure that his future is in the premier class.
25 years old, United Kingdom
After he’s suffered through a tough opening year in Moto2 in 2019 on KTM’s ill-tempered and short-lived bike, 2020 was the first real example we got of what British rider Jake Dixon was capable of. A regular top six finisher by the end of the year, only a broken wrist in practice at the Valencian Grand Prix that took him out of the last three rounds denied us the chance to see him take his debut podium.
That’s welcome news to MotoGP bosses Dorna, who are desperate to ensure British talent finds its way back into the premier class to fill the gap left by Cal Crutchlow’s sudden departure at the end of 2020. Should Rossi choose to step down or head elsewhere (maybe to his own squad?) at the end of the year, then Dixon will take his seat – unless someone else has come knocking first, of course.
With Dixon managed by Joan Mir’s crew chief Frankie Carchedi, there are obvious Suzuki links, and he would be a good bet for any satellite team that might emerge for the Hamamatsu manufacturer.
20 years old, Italy
Japanese rider Ai Ogura was one of the dominant forces of the 2020 Moto3 campaign thanks entirely to consistency, taking six podiums from the first eight races – only to see things fall apart a bit afterwards.
That needs addressing in 2021, but if he can fix it then he’s on a fast track as one of Honda’s marked potential successors to Taka Nakagami.
23 years old, Australia
Already believed to have some sort of KTM contract for 2022, it’s highly likely that Remy Gardner is a man under pressure this year thanks to whatever performance clauses he needs to hit to activate that deal.
A first-time winner in the last race of last year, he looks like he’s improved his consistency as well – maybe even more important than his speed given he’s already put in a few stellar displays last year.
20 years old, Spain
Without a doubt, one of the next big things climbing the ranks of the sport, another year in Moto3 would have been on the cards for Raul Fernandez had it not been for some 11th-hour reshuffling.
He could have probably done with that year to help polish off some of his rough edges, but it means he comes into Moto2 with less pressure than his rivals.
He needs only to stay in one piece and record the odd good result here or there in 2021 and then launch a bigger effort in 2022 to ensure a future spot on the MotoGP grid.
21 years old, Spain
Moto3’s 2019 runner-up Aron Canet had something of a quiet debut Moto2 season last year, not setting the world alight on the Aspar Speed Up machine.
But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t achieve much, with the heavily-tattooed Spaniard maturing and developing a work ethic that’ll serve him well in the future.
He’s had his learning year now though, and 2021 will be less forgiving – simply put, he needs to be a regular podium contender.
His route to MotoGP is certainly clearer than that of his former Moto3 title rival Lorenzo Dalla Porta, who’d beaten Canet to the title but had a really difficult 2020 in Moto2.
24 years old, Spain
Last year’s Moto3 champion, Arenas is a little older than most of the other rookies at 24, meaning time isn’t on his side the way it is for someone like 20-year-old Raul Fernandez.
But he’s not just very talented – he’s personable, smart, media-savvy and well connected in the paddock.
These are all things that’ll work in his favour, and he needs to get his rookie season out of the way with an odd surprise result to build on last year’s title.
19 years old, Italy
A Moto2 rookie this year, Vietti comes in after a strong 2020 that saw him win two races and finish fifth in the championship in only his second season in the class, a year after securing sixth as a rookie in the lightweight class.
He’s highly regarded within the VR46 project, and he should be on a straight path to MotoGP – but Moto2 has made or broken many careers before and he’ll have to adapt fast.
20 years old, Italy
Arguably the rider most affected by COVID-19 last year, Arbolino lost out on crucial points after a fellow passenger on one of his flights tested positive, forcing him into quarantine in Aragon.
He still got his Moto2 chance for 2021 though, joining one of the strongest teams in the paddock in the shape of Dynavolt Intact. If he can continue to deliver the way he did in Moto3, then the tall Italian will be well-positioned for a strong future.
23 years old, Spain
Once hotly-tipped as Petronas Yamaha’s future star, Vierge’s ascension was put on hold thanks to the team’s signing of Rossi for 2021 – and that year’s delay could spell disaster for Vierge should he be eclipsed by team-mate Dixon.
There could be other MotoGP options for the Catalan, but he needs to back up his rapid pace from last year with some consistency after a few too many crashes outof strong positions.
28 years old, United States
Five-time MotoAmerica champion Beaubier returns to the Grand Prix paddock for the first time since his 125cc season in 2009, now a 28-year-old and vastly more experienced. Time is against him thanks to his age, but MotoGP is desperate to promote fast Americans.
Right now series bosses are betting big on Roberts, but it hasn’t gone unnoticed that Beaubier was the faster of the pair in pre-season testing at Qatar.
So if Roberts falters at all in 2021, then Beaubier could be waiting to swoop in and steal his thunder.
30 years old, United Kingdom
Former Aprilia rider Sam Lowes is in a rather odd position right now. Older than the average Moto2 rider and one of the few with past MotoGP experience thanks to an ill-fated season on Aprilia machinery that ended badly for him, his chances of being promoted a second time might have been permanently damaged by his 2017 premier-class adventures.
But that doesn’t change the fact that he arguably starts the 2021 Moto2 season as the clear favourite thanks to a strong run of form last year that was only not rewarded by a title due to injuries.
Should he take the title this time, then perhaps the door will be opened a crack as his talent and newfound consistency get him noticed again.