There’s a very good chance Monster Energy will again be atop the 2022 MotoGP series championship podium. But which M-claw racer will wear the crown this season is anybody’s guess.
2021 defending MotoGP champion and current overall point leader Fabio “El Diablo” Quartararo (Monster Energy/Factory Yamaha MotoGP) has held the series lead for much of the 2022 season, thanks to a strong first half of the season and, as of early September, a still 30-point lead following four victories in a row by Monster Energy’s Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia (Ducati/Lenovo).
The lead was still well in favor of Quartararo, until this past weekend’s Thailand Grand Prix on the Chang International Circuit, where Quartararo suffered a difficult 17th place finish in the pouring rain. This, coupled with a brilliantly-fought 3rd place podium finish from Bagnaia, where he held off charges from former MotoGP champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and fellow Ducati pilot Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), cut Quartararo’s overall MotoGP championship point lead down to a mere two points (out front of Bagnaia), 219-217, with only three races remaining on the MotoGP series schedule.
MotoGP point leaders Quartararo and Bagnaia had actually struggled at one of the two rain-soaked MotoGP main events this season. Bagnaia doing so at the Grand Prix of Indonesia back in March, placing 14th. This weekend MotoGP is off, with the stage being set for Sunday, October 16th running of the Australian Motorcycle GP on Phillip Island.
Said Quartararo, in brief, following the Thailand GP: “We will try to come back stronger in Australia.”
Added Bagnaia: “We are two points behind Quartararo in the championship, so the next three races will be really decisive.”
Twenty-five points on the line at Phillip Island and 75 total points remaining on the 2022 MotoGP season calendar. Three races between two Monster Energy guys to decide the title. Making the Phillip Island contest even more interesting for Quartararo and Bagnaia is that you have to go back to 2019 (after both the 2020 and 2021 Australian GPs were cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns) for results from the then both rookie MotoGP class racers. In that Aussie MotoGP final Quartararo, who as the 2019 MotoGP Rookie of the Year, would crash out on lap two while Bagnaia would run strong to a 4th place finish.
All said, with the lead, the title is Quartararo’s to lose. Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory MotoGP team director Massimo Meregalli summed up Quartararo’s result from Thailand, and looked ahead to the final three rounds of the MotoGP season.
“One good point of Fabio is that, once he gets disappointed (re. Thailand GP finish), in 20 seconds he is back to normal and really focused for the next race. For sure now there are three races to go and Phillip Island is my favorite. I think there, and probably Malaysia (GP), we can do better than probably Valencia (GP). The championship is starting from zero now, and I think there is only one way to try to win, and that’s to attack.”
The final question that remains comes down to team strategy. Will the field, top-heavy with Ducatis, gang up on Quartararo, especially at November’s final round at Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia, which Bagnaia won in 2021? The MotoGP championship is coming down to the wire, and two Monster Energy racers are right in the middle of the high drama of the world’s premier motorcycle road racing championship!
MotoGP will be at Phillip Island, Australia, on October 16th for the running of the Australian Motorcycle GP.