As the paddock packed up after the Jerez test on Monday, held after the Spanish GP at the circuit, the bombshell news emerged that Suzuki is to withdraw from MotoGP at the end of the current season. Motorsport.com's Oriol Puigdemont was the first to break the news, which I have since had confirmed by multiple sources in the MotoGP paddock. The team were told on Monday morning, before the test, with an official announcement expected on Tuesday.
The decision was a financial one. GPOne.com published a story citing sources that say that Suzuki's decision was based on financial grounds, with the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine depressing the global economy. Paddock rumor suggests that one of the things Livio Suppo had been brought into Suzuki to do was to make budget cuts where possible, but nobody, not even Suppo, could have expected this decision, which came down from Suzuki's board of directors.
The timing of the withdrawal is bizarre, at least when viewed from a sporting perspective. The factory won a world title in 2020 with Joan Mir, and have two riders widely regarded as among the most talented on the grid. Alex Rins is currently fourth in the championship, 20 points behind the leader Fabio Quartararo, while Joan Mir is sixth, trailing Quartararo by 33 points. The Suzuki GSX-RR is one of the best bikes on the grid, especially since Suzuki's engineers found more horsepower and more torque for the 2022 season. Mir and Rins can be expected to be in the title hunt for 2022, only to be dropped at the end of the season.
The economic costs could be high as well. Suzuki signed a five-year contract with Dorna in April last year, promising to compete in MotoGP from 2022 to 2026. Dorna has bolstered their contracts after Kawasaki withdrew at the end of 2008, during the global financial crisis which followed in the wake of the Lehmann Brothers collapse. The board of directors of Dorna will be meeting to discuss how to address the withdrawal, and a statement will surely follow the announcement by Suzuki.
Suzuki's withdrawal is unlikely to see the grid reduced from 24 to 22 bikes. Instead, the two slots are likely to be taken by an Aprilia satellite team. Aprilia have been trying to convince several satellite teams to switch to Aprilia, as the Noale factory believes the time is right to expand their efforts and to create a space where they can park young talent to be nurtured.
The withdrawal of Suzuki also opens the question of where Alex Rins and Joan Mir will end up. Suzuki's exit blows the rider market open wide, at least behind Fabio Quartararo. Mir is now almost certain to end up at Repsol Honda, the 2020 world champion taking the place of Pol Espargaro alongside Marc Marquez. Alex Rins will be a highly prized rider, especially for a factory like Yamaha who have a very similar bike.
The press release is expected tomorrow. But this is a story which is likely to develop very fast. There are plenty more twists in the road.