Seven races down and 14 to go: the MotoGP season is already a third of the way done. This season has been incredible to watch with five different race winners and 11 different riders standing on the podium.
With a third of the season done, the championship battle is getting clearer by the race. Therefore, some riders should be panicked about their job security or their aspirations for this season.
For this column, the riders’ panic levels will be assessed on a scale of one to ten. A score of one means the rider is secure with their team and has been exceeding expectations. A score of ten means the riders should not be sleeping and should be on edge as their ride is in doubt for next year or their season has been a massive disappointment. Let’s dive in!
Maverick Viñales - Aprilia Racing
Viñales has had a rollercoaster ride in MotoGP. He entered the top level in 2015 with Suzuki, and by the end of 2016 Viñales had finished fourth in the championship, winning his first race that year as well. Viñales then moved to Yamaha in 2017, where many thought he’d win a championship for sure. That didn’t happen. Viñales finished as high as third in the championship at Yamaha before forcing his way out of his contract midway through last season. He is now at Aprilia and is struggling to adapt to the bike. Since his switch, he hasn’t found the podium and is 13th in the standings. It’s tough to know what the Spanish rider’s aspirations should be, as Viñales has a lot of talent but is also a confounding figure in the sport. He should be very panicked as he is getting his butt kicked by his teammate. If he doesn’t improve this year, Viñales will soon turn into a story of what could have been.
Alex Espargaro - Aprilia Racing
Aprilia has two riders who are at opposite ends of the panic spectrum. Espargaro has been in MotoGP for a decade. He seemed destined to be stuck in the middle of the MotoGP pack -- until things changed last year. Espargaro and Aprilia found pace and Espargaro scored Aprilia’s first podium ever in MotoGP. Espargaro has stepped it up yet another level in 2022. He won his first race in Argentina this year and has cemented himself as a championship contender with his consistency. He has finished third the last three races and sits second in the championship, four points behind Fabio Quartararo. Espargaro’s seat is as secure as it can be as he has taken Aprilia and his riding to new heights.
Jack Miller - Ducati Lenovo Team
Miller is one of the sport’s best personalities. The Aussie is full of charisma and has had a solid start to his time at Ducati Lenovo. Miller scored two wins, five podiums and a fourth place finish in the championship in his first year with the factory Ducati team last year. But he has gotten off to an inconsistent start this season. He has two DNFs (Did Not Finish) but also has two podiums. This seems to be par for the course for Miller at Ducati. If he wants to show himself to be a championship contender, he needs to be better than the sixth place he currently sits in the championship. Miller’s seat at Ducati has been under speculation since last year. He should be very panicked as Enea Bastianini has 32 more points than Miller on last year’s factory Ducati bike.
Francesco Bagnaia - Ducati Lenovo Team
Bagnaia has had a disappointing start to the 2022 season. He sits seventh in the standings after one win and no other podiums, along with two DNFs as well. Bagnaia had a fantastic close to the 2021 season, winning four of the last six races. He finished second in the championship behind Quartararo. Ducati has the best bike on the grid so far and Bagnaia needs to show it. His ride should be safe as he showed his talent at the end of last year. But Bagnaia should also be panicked as he was picked to be a title contender and he is 46 points down on Quatararo. His title chances aren’t looking great.
Panic Score: 8
Enea Bastianini - Gresini Racing MotoGP
If anyone would have said Bastianini would be the top Ducati rider through seven races, they’d be laughed at. But here we are. Bastianini has won three races, the most so far this season. What’s incredible is his bike is Ducati’s factory model from last year. He is dominating his teammate by 91 points and sits third in the championship. Bastianini looks to be a threat to win the title and move up to the factory Ducati next year. The second year MotoGP rider should be sleeping well at night.
Fabio Di Giannantonio - Gresini Racing MotoGP
Di Giannantonio isn’t off to an impressive start. He currently sits 22nd in the championship standings. He has nowhere near the pace his teammate has and has struggled to score points during his rookie year. It isn’t clear how much upside he has since he only won one Moto2 race in three years. Skeptics will say he’s too slow and he should be gone. Supporters will claim he needs more time and further years are needed. Both could happen to the young Italian.
Panic Score: 5
Taakai Nakagami - LCR Honda
Nakagami has been a staple at LCR Honda for the past five seasons. 2020 was his best season so far as he was consistently hovering around the top ten and finished 10th in the championship. Nakagami finished 15th last season and is currently 14th in the championship. The positive approach for Nakagami is LCR’s expectations aren’t very high and he is ahead of his teammate on points. But the Japanese rider is already 30 years old, so LCR could try to find a younger rider with higher upside.
Alex Marquez - LCR Honda
The younger brother of Marc Marquez, Alex has a great last name to help keep his MotoGP career alive. Unfortunately, other than his surname, there isn’t much else. Marquez was on the factory Honda team with Marc but was demoted to LCR Honda as he hasn’t done anything in the last two seasons. He finished 16th in last year’s championship and is currently 19th. Marquez could have his seat next year to appease his older brother, but he should be panicked regardless.
Panic Score: 8
Fabio Quartararo - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP
The reigning world champion has rebounded nicely from a slow start to the season. He finished out of the top six in three of the first four races. Since then, he has finished in the top four in all three races. Quartararo is in first place in the championship, despite his complaints about the bike. His seat is secure and he’s in the best spot he can be, but his complaints could become worrisome later on in the season.
Panic Score: 2
Franco Morbidelli - Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP
Morbidelli might be the most disappointing rider this year. He sits 17th in the championship with 19 points through seven races on the factory Yamaha bike. It was only two seasons ago Morbidelli finished second in the championship as a non-factory Yamaha rider. He was then promoted to the factory team when Viñales left but was still recovering from a bad injury. Morbidelli can’t use the injury as an excuse forever. He has been awful. What is interesting is he is under contract through 2023. Would Yamaha buy him out if his terrible performance continues? It’s a possibility, especially with the collapse of the Suzuki team. Regardless, he should be panicked as Morbidelli needs to step it up to stop himself from being a total embarrassment.
Luca Marini - Mooney VR46 Racing Team
Marini, the half-brother of Valentino Rossi, is in his second year of MotoGP. Last year, he had his struggles and finished 19th in the championship. This year he is currently in 16th and is beating his teammate. Marini is young and his seat should be secure with his progress -- and particularly because it’s Rossi’s team. He’s still learning and he’s right where he should be.
Panic Score: 3
Marco Bezzecchi - Mooney VR46 Racing Team
Bezzecchi is another rookie who is still finding his footing. The 23 year-old Italian is in 18th place and only two points behind his teammate. Like Marini, Bezzecchi is still learning and should strive to beat his teammate but his seat isn’t at much risk.
Panic Score: 4
Johann Zarco - Pramac Racing
Zarco has been a mainstay at the top of the midfield since he entered MotoGP in 2017. Since then, he has finished fifth or sixth in the championship three out of five years and he is currently in sixth. Zarco is always a good bet to lead some races and get a few podiums each year. But he hasn’t won a MotoGP race yet and he’s 31. Still, Zarco is in a great spot so far. He and Pramac would be happy with a sixth-place finish in the championship. With the parity in the sport, there may be no time like the present for Zarco to get his first MotoGP race win.
Panic Score: 3
Jorge Martin - Pramac Racing
Martin is one of the young riders with the highest upsides. In his first year in MotoGP in 2021, he showed his speed with four podiums and one win with Pramac, that despite a massive crash in which he broke eight bones in Portugal. But Martin has struggled to start in 2022. He has crashed in five races and has DNFs in four of them. Martin has a podium in one of the two races he has scored in. The young Spanish rider is secure at Pramac, but his end goal is the factory Ducati team. To get there, he needs to stay on the bike and get some podiums. Bastianini is fighting for a factory Ducati seat as well. Martin is 66 points behind Bastianini and should be very panicked because 15th in the championship isn’t remotely close to where a rider with his talent should be.
Panic Score: 8
Brad Binder - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
The media’s favorite rider, Binder is in his third season in MotoGP riding for KTM. He had a race win in each of his first two seasons in MotoGP. Binder finished sixth last year in the championship. He got off to a great start this year, finishing second in the opening race at Qatar, but hasn’t been on the podium since and is in eighth in the championship. A well-liked rider, Binder isn’t in danger of losing his seat as he is beating his teammate this year. He does need to finish well this year to justify all the love he gets from the media.
Panic Score: 4
Miguel Oliveira - Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Oliveira is one of the most inconsistent riders on the grid. Here are his first three results of the season: DNF, first, 13th. He has four wins in his MotoGP career with KTM which began back in 2019. His best finish was ninth in the 2020 Championship. Oliveira needs to find more consistency because he should be panicked about his future with KTM and his aspirations for the season.
Panic Score: 6
Pol Espargaro - Repsol Honda
The Espargaro brothers have been battling it out in the midfield for about a decade. The problem is, Alex has left the midfield and Pol has not. Pol Espargaro has had a wide array of finishes to seasons in MotoGP. He finished fifth in 2020, sixth in 2014 and 17th in 2017. He is now in his second year with Repsol Honda and sits 12th in the standings. He had a third place finish in Qatar to start the year. Since then it has been downhill and he has finished in the top 10 once since. Pol needs to step up and show some pace because the rumors are already swirling that he’s lost his seat for next year. Pol should be very panicked about his MotoGP present and future.
Panic Score: 9
Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda
The MotoGP legend has found some consistency after all the trouble he’s had with injuries over the past two years. Marquez has finished five of this seasons's first seven races thus far. In those five races, he finished between fourth and sixth in each event. It isn’t the consistent domination Marquez used to show: that Marquez might be gone as his body has broken down so many times. The six-time MotoGP champion will ride for Repsol Honda as long as he wants to. The only panic Marquez might have is whether his body can hold up for the rest of the season.
Panic Score: 3
Joan Mir - Team Suzuki Ecstar
The 2020 World Champion hasn’t gotten off to a great start this year. He’s down in ninth place in the championship because of two DNFs and no finish higher than fourth. Mir’s consistency has been the trademark of the last few years at Suzuki. He was consistent enough to win the title in 2020 and consistent enough to finish third in 2021. Mir is without a seat next year due to Suzuki’s surprising exit from the sport. Mir is rumored to be headed to Honda, although nothing has been confirmed. Mir should be panicked about the start to his season and his ride situation as well. However, it’d be a shock to not see him on the grid to start 2023.
Panic Score: 7
Alex Rins - Team Suzuki Ecstar
Rins has been the opposite of Mir these past few years. He struggled to consistently keep the bike on the track in 2021, finishing 13th in the championship. He has better speed than Mir and has been more consistent this year with only one DNF and two podiums. Rins is currently in fourth in the championship and, like Mir, is without a ride for next year. Again, it’d be surprising not to see him on the grid to start next year, although nothing is set in stone.
Panic Score: 7
Raul Fernandez - Tech3 KTM Factory Racing
Fernandez is another rookie in MotoGP this year. The 21-year-old Spanish rider had an incredible Moto2 season last year, winning eight races. Fernandez has struggled mightily so far this season. In his five starts, he has failed to score any points and is 24th in the championship. He should be panicked because that’s an awful start to any career. However, he showed his winning ways last year in Moto2 and should be around at the start of next year.
Panic Score: 7
Remy Gardner - Tech3 KTM Factory Racing
Gardner beat out Fernandez for the Moto2 title last year. The Australian rookie is having a tough time so far this season, although he is beating out his teammate as he has three points on the season. Gardner is in a similar predicament as Fernandez. He should look to improve but his seat should be safe for next year.
Panic Score: 5
Andrea Dovizioso - WithU RNF MotoGP Team
Dovizioso’s days at the front are over. He is no longer competitive and should be seen as more of a test rider for Yamaha. Dovizioso’s race finishes shouldn’t matter too much. If he gets point it’s a huge bonus. The 15-time MotoGP winner will sleep well at night and can only hope he doesn’t get hurt.
Panic Score: 2
Darryn Binder - WithU RNF MotoGP Team
Binder makes the least sense on the grid. Why is he in MotoGP? He went directly from Moto3 to MotoGP and he wasn’t anything special in Moto3. He won one race in seven years! This is like a Division III basketball player averaging six points and then getting drafted into the NBA. Baffling. The team must have real low expectations. To Binder’s credit, he’s in 21st so far and has scored six points. Binder should look to improve and beat Dovizioso. He should be panicked because he shouldn’t have the ride in the first place. Who knows what this team is thinking.
Panic Score: 6