A Beauty from the Beast at the Qatar GP

Qatar GP 2022- Round One of the 2022 MotoGP season got underway with Enea “The Beast” Bastianini getting an emotional win for Gresini Racing. Bastianini and the entire Gresini Racing team were visibly emotional as they saw their rider take the chequered flag in the season opener under the lights in Doha, at the Lusail International Circuit. The team dedicating this win to their former team boss- Fausti Gresini, who passed away last year after contracting COVID-19. This was one of those moments where the entire paddock was happy to cheer on Bastianini and Gresini as the riders made their way back to Parc Ferme.

Bastianini started 2nd on the grid, behind pole setter Jorge Martin on the Pramac Ducati, and ahead of Marc Marquez on the Honda, completing the first row. Bastianini overtook Pol Espargaro and his Honda with 4 laps to go, after the Spaniard led the race up to that point. He was eventually 3rd and took the final podium spot as KTM rider Brad Binder overtook him in the closing stages of the race, as Pol was pushing to stay with the lead Ducati. With his 2nd place finish, Binder ensured that this was KTM’s highest ever finish in Qatar. They couldn’t break into the top 6 before this.

Jorge Martin had a race to forget. The Pramac man could not capitalize on pole and was swallowed up by the pack behind him. And to top it all, Pecco Bagnaia on his Ducati lost control and crashed into Jorge Martin on lap 12 and took both of them out. A disappointing weekend for Ducati’s factory outfit as Jack Miller retired the race on lap 6 after facing a technical issue. Fellow Aussie and debutant Remy Gardner on the KTM got his first point as a MotoGP rider, crossing the finish line in 15th.

Elsewhere, the Suzukis of Rins and Mir had a disappointing outing. They showed a lot of promise on Saturday but just couldn’t convert that into a result on Sunday, with Mir and Rins finishing 6th and 7th respectively. The Suzuki did this a lot last year too- a lackluster showing on Saturday that was followed by tremendous race pace and race craft on Sunday. They will need to look at both this time round if they want to get their hands on the championships this year. There were a few positives for Suzuki- the bike still looks like the most balanced, the GSX is a race pace bike and we saw that in spurts, and finally we got to see the increase in power of that Suzuki engine when down the start-finish straight, we in fact did NOT see the Ducati breeze past it, like we would have seen a year ago.

Defending champion and last year’s race winner, Yamaha rider, Quartararo didn’t kick off his title defense the way he would have wanted to. He started in 11th and on the final lap, down the start-finish straight was pipped to 8th place by Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco- that Ducati showing that it is still an absolute missile in straight line speeds. The Yamaha looked surprisingly average. Quartararo even said post-race that he pushed as hard as he could. They need to get back to the factory and work on the M1 before the next round in Indonesia. They will be desperate to get back on track sooner rather than later, especially considering how many riders this season are gunning for the driver’s championship. Even Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia looked rapid as he brought the bike home in 4th place, just behind younger brother Pol. A couple more laps and I reckon the Aprilia would’ve taken the final podium spot.

Qatar isn’t always the best indicator as to where teams stand compared to each other. It’s a hard track to read too much into. But you can still certainly see how teams “look” on the track. Body language, strategy, rider mindset, etc. And the fact that we had 8 teams finish in the top 10 is a wonderful sign for the fans. Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda, Ducati, and Gresini will all be bullish over their title hopes this season. Looks like we’re in for another season long dog fight with endless storylines to unfold over the next 20 races. BRB, ‘bout to grab some popcorn.