It’s the second week of January, and there are no important rumors yet about the MotoGP driver contracts that have been signed. Compared to recent years, this is a slightly after start to the season, because all but a handful of drivers have to extend their contracts at the end of 2022.
In recent years, the month of January has been full of activities. In 2020, there were rumors about the New Year that Maverick Viñales had been courted by Ducati, and Yamaha had to announce early to keep the Spaniard in the Monster Energy Factory team (and we all know how that turned out). A few weeks after, rumors followed that Ducati had hired Jorge Martin and, at the end of January, we learned that Fabio Quartararo had been included as part of the Yamaha factory and had ousted Valentino Rossi.
Two years earlier, a similar story had taken place when Yamaha signed both Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi in January, just in time for the start of the team. And to think, Valentino Rossi lamented Casey Stoner’s move to Repsol Honda for the 2011 Season as a decision taken early when the deal was sealed after the Jerez MotoGP tour in early May 2010. By these standards, the current lack of movement on the contract front is almost qualified as a delay. Drivers don’t jump on contracts early and factories make no effort to hire drivers before they are recruited by someone else.
This reflects some important factors in MotoGP. First, the ongoing global recent times is now rewarding patience. Although the world is in a much better place than it has been since the recent times began, uncertainty hangs over every event. Although it seems that the 2022 Season and the Pre-Season Tests are going according to plan, it makes sense to wait until the bikes are actually on the track and look at them all before making a decision on the future.
Secondly, and most importantly, drivers and factories have a much wider choice. All six MotoGP manufacturers are now on the Podium and five of the six have won races. Although there are clearly better bikes – the Ducati Desmosedici is undoubtedly the best bike on the starting grid – and worse bikes – The Aprilia RS-GP has a podium and is progressing, but is not quite there yet – all the bikes on the MotoGP starting grid are competitive.
Drivers no longer need to sit on a factory Yamaha, Ducati or Honda to have a Chance of winning the title. It also works the other way around. The reason Ducati Viñales pursued so hard in 2019 and 2020 was because they thought their bike was better than the riders they had.
This is no longer the matter: Pecco Bagnaia was on the verge of winning the title in 2021, Jorge Martin won two races during his rookie season and turned into a credible ultimatum on the podium at every Lap, Jack Miller remains a serious candidate for the championship and Enea Bastianini has made great progress thanks to his rookie campaign.
The embarrassment of choice
The same applies to almost all manufacturers in MotoGP: Yamaha has the Defending Champion with Fabio Quartararo and a multiple winner with Franco Morbidelli. Likewise, Suzuki has the 2020 Champion, Joan Mir, and the multiple winner of the race, Alex Rins. Honda has Marc Marquez (probably and I hope, but after) and Pol Espargaro put the RC213V on the Podium. KTM has talents that come out of your ears, with Brad Binder, Miguel Oliveira, the impressive Moto2 Rookie Raul Fernandez and the even more breathtaking Moto3 Champion Pedro Acosta.
Even Aprilia has Maverick Viñales alongside Aleix Espargaro, Viñales’ record of 9 wins in the queen category proves that he can win races if circumstances allow it. Of course, every MotoGP factory strives to find the best available talents. But unlike previous years, they are quite satisfied with the drivers they already have under contract.