MotoGP Jerez: Race preview

| | MotoGP
Picture: GeeBee Images

The lead four remain tight at the top as the MotoGP paddock descends on Spain’s Jerez Circuit, with Quartararo on form and some key rivals now on home turf.

From another weekend of intrigue, drama and spectacle, the paddock now heads east along the Algarve and into Andalucia, ready to set up shop at the classic Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto. If it was tight at the top of the standings before, it’s even more so now, with Fabio Quartararo’s (Monster Energy Yamaha) win in Portugal seeing him take the lead in the Championship for the first time this year… but equal on points with Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins. If that wasn’t enough, Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro remains only three points off in third, and Gresini Racing’s Enea Bastianini is still within eight of the top. That’s the closest top four after five races with this scoring system… ever.

As unpredictability continues to somewhat rule then, what are we to expect from the Gran Premio Red Bull de España? One thing is likely, a fast Quartararo. The reigning champion was sublime last time out and pretty much wiped the floor at a venue he’s ruled before, and that’s a criteria Jerez more than matches. El Diablo’s speed at the track has made him formidable from that very first MotoGP pole, and it’s also another track where the main straight isn’t a mammoth runway down to turn one for the Yamaha to tackle. So, is it another Quartararo special coming up?

If it is, Monster Energy teammate Franco Morbidelli will want what he’s having. It remains a tougher run of it so far in 2022 as the number 21 continues to look for the sweet spot with a new crew and coming back from injury onto the new bike. WithU RNF Yamaha’s Andrea Dovizioso, meanwhile, has had Morbidelli’s number a few times recently – although he will, like his compatriot, very much still be looking for more.

With four different winners in the first five races, Suzuki Ecstar’s Rins and Joan Mir are high on the list of riders looking to book their ticket to becoming the fifth. Rins put in an astounding comeback ride on the Algarve to recover from a disastrous seeming qualifying in P23, to home in on the podium fight and come home fourth. After a tough season for the number 42 last year tumbling over the limit at times, the mental strength to keep that on the road for some magic is a good sign – and that’s aside from the pure speed itself.

2020 Champion Mir also had some of that speed and led the race away before getting caught by Quartararo, but the number 36 now finds himself with a deficit to the top of the standings after that late crash with Ducati Lenovo’s Jack Miller - having at one point looked able to lead on the way into Jerez. Bad luck is bad luck, but it puts the Mallorcan in an unenviable position after his characteristically mistake-free run in 2022 had done wonders. What can he do this weekend?

At Aprilia, meanwhile, the dream continues – as does the speed of the new RS-GP. Espargaro put in another impressive ride as he took that third step on the podium, and that means two things: a) he’s very much in contention right at the top still and b) the Noale factory are right on the cusp of losing those concessions. The number 41 said he doesn’t care and would actually welcome that, but it does add an intriguing extra arc to the story. As does Maverick Viñales’ continued search for better early race form, with some good signs coming in from the number 12 and another solid finish last time out – but he’ll want more.

So what about Ducati? A third of the grid is a lot of headlines to cover, but one is definitely another impressive ride from Johann Zarco as the Pramac Racing rider completed the second ever French one-two behind Quartararo. He wants a win though, as the rider with the most premier class podiums without one being a visit to the top step, and will be pushing again this weekend – as will teammate Jorge Martin after he crashed out in Portugal. Jerez, not only home turf but a venue he’s already show more form at, will likely see the number 89 back at the front and complicating life for the more veteran runners around him.

At Ducati Lenovo, Miller needs to bounce back from that crash after an otherwise solid weekend in Portugal, but the good news for the Australian is that Jerez is where he took that first ever win in red last year. Then, teammate Pecco Bagnaia followed him home, and the Italian arrives a little bruised after his Saturday crash on the Algarve but nevertheless still put in an impressive ride. Will a few more days to recover work some wonders?

Bastianini, meanwhile, continued a pattern: the winner of the race before has never finished in the top ten in the next. In his case it was a DNF and after a crash on Saturday had also dented his qualifying, but he remains close at the top in the standings and Jerez is chance to reset. Can the Beast put that GP21 back on top – and take back the championship lead?

Over at Red Bull KTM, the picture in Portugal was also a mixed one. For Miguel Oliveira it was a quality ride to fifth on home turf, with the Portuguese rider putting to bed some tougher form in the dry so far in 2022. Can he do that on Spanish soil now? On the other side of the factory garage for Brad Binder though, it was a disappointing end to race day – and one so rare for the South African it’s actually a whole year nearly on rewind to find the last time the number 33 crashed out… and it was at Jerez. Still, that Moto3 win from the back must be mentioned, and the then-rookie’s unreal pace in his first race weekend in MotoGP, with plenty of form at Jerez to prove a blip does not a tradition make. What will he bounce back with in 2022?

For Honda on the way into Jerez, there are also some mixed fortunes. For Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) it’s a reset needed after a tough weekend, but Jerez is where he’s taken his equal best MotoGP result. For Repsol Honda’s Pol Espargaro the hill has seemed to tip upwards again in the last couple of races – although he was suffering with illness at COTA – and he’ll want more from a first home Grand Prix of the year. At the other end of the scale, Portugal was a revelation for Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) as the number 73 took a huge step towards the front – in qualifying and on race day – and missed out on beating brother Marc by a margin humans would struggle to count without digital help.

So what of the number 93? COTA was an incredible comeback after that issue at the start, but Portugal was an intriguing one. Almost taking pole before that lap cancellation then led to a more muted Sunday as he fought it out for the top six, and perhaps most interestingly, surrounded by other Hondas he previously had some margin over. That said, Marc Marquez had only ever raced at Portimão once before, and Jerez is a different beast entirely. Some amazing memories, some very tough ones but before those were made, Marquez’ display of speed on that Sunday remains enough to give goosebumps. Where will the eight-time champion and the new RC213V be this time around?