The start of the 2022 MotoGP season has been labeled chaotic. There have been nine different riders on the podium in the first three races, with nobody managing to get on the podium twice. There have been three different leaders in the teams championship, and two different leaders in the riders championship, with Aleix Espargaro taking over from Enea Bastianini, and Ducati and KTM have swapped the lead in the manufacturers championship. The winners of the first three races were three different riders on three different bikes. How are we expect to make sense of that?
At first, there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to the start of the season. Fans, pundits, and experts have racked their brains trying to make sense of 2022 so far. Every race seems to throw up new anomalies, every time a rider has a strong race, they seem to falter badly at the next race. Consistency appears to have gone out of style in a big way.
While it may look like chaos reigns in the premier class, that is not the full picture. The season is starting to take shape, but for most teams, the biggest issue is finding a base setting that works everywhere. At some tracks, the bikes work well. At others, a key piece of the puzzle is still missing.
Why the mess?
There are a number of factors which complicate the search for a base setting which will work in most places. First and foremost is the combination of major upgrades to the MotoGP bikes and a lack of testing. The expanded calendar has seen testing reduced, and the combination of poor weather at a shortened Sepang test and unusual track conditions at Mandalika, a track MotoGP visited for the first time this year. That, added to the peculiar nature of the first three MotoGP races, means the teams still have a lot of work to do to figure the bikes out.
Let's start with development. An underrated factor for the 2022 bikes is the fact that the Grand Prix Commission and the MSMA agreed a freeze on engine development at the start of the pandemic. The engines the factories started the 2020 season with were the engines they finished 2021 with. At least, all factories bar Aprilia, who had concessions through both of those seasons, and still do.
With engine development once again allowed for the start of the 2022 season, manufacturers were able to bring much bigger upgrades than usual. Much has been made of the brand new Honda RC213V, a bike revised from top to tail. The only part of that bike which hasn't gone a radical redesign is the air in the tires. The two years of the pandemic gave HRC the time to start almost from a blank sheet of paper.
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