We have spent a lot of time saying that the 2022 MotoGP season starts at Jerez, and it really felt like it on Sunday. Driving into the track on Sunday morning I was surrounded by motorcycles – if you get a chance to go to a MotoGP race on a bike, you should, it is a wonderful experience – all of whom I did my very best not to run into, whatever their antics. The grandstands were full and attendance was nearly back to pre-pandemic levels – over 58,000 on Sunday, about 10,000 shy of a normal Jerez Sunday, or at least, the 'unskewed' numbers which suddenly appeared at the 2016 race, down from double that the previous years.
More importantly, normal order has been restored. There were two riders head and shoulders above the rest, finishing 10 seconds ahead of the battle for third. Marc Marquez showed a lot of his old form, the Repsol Honda rider looking like Marc Marquez on a bike again, not an impostor who sneaked into his truck and stole his leathers for a glorified track day. And all six MotoGP manufacturers are racing under the same rules again, after the last factory lost its concessions. This was a good weekend of racing.
In these notes:
- MotoGP's strongest factory
- Pecco vs Fabio, 2021 continued
- Aprilia is now for real
- the trouble with tire temperatures
- the real effect of wings
- Marc Marquez turns up
First, though, the one thing which emerged from Jerez was the fact that there are now two clear candidates for the 2022 MotoGP title. Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo were a cut above the rest of the pack, the pair getting away at the start and quickly opening a gap once the freshest edge was off the tires. Three laps into the race, and Jack Miller was still within touching distance of Fabio Quartararo, and running just a tenth slower than Bagnaia and Quartararo. A lap later and the gap was up to a second, and another lap, and the leaders were into the 1'37s while Miller's time was dropping from the low 1'38s and heading toward mid 1'38s.
Making the difference
Where Bagnaia and Quartararo made the difference was after those first five laps, when the tires take their first slight drop in performance on a hot, greasy track slick with Dunlop rubber laid down by the Moto2 race. The pace of the two leaders was relentless, where Miller, Marc Marquez, and Aleix Espargaro started to drop away.
It is also a sign that the two have a step over the rest of the field, and are emerging as the two championship candidates. That ability, to impose a relentless pace on a race and force others to follow or be dropped, is the difference between fighting for a title and occasionally being in a podium fight.
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