The year 2021 saw every manufacturer take home a podium and heralded some of the closest top-15 finishes of all time.
More records were broken, new winners emerged, and a few precedents were set. France got its first premier class World Champion. MotoGP bid a racing farewell to legends and winners.
But that’s already a chapter in the history books, and now we’re about to open the cover on 2022 and welcome the new.
The title page bears a simple message: welcome back to the greatest show on Earth.
It’s Losail International Circuit that hosts the now iconic floodlit opening round, and in 2022 there are 24 riders waiting for the lights to go out – 14 of whom are World Champions, which is a new record. Five are premier class rookies, 12 are premier class race winners. One has eight World Championships. One wears the crown. Another signed off 2021 with the momentum.
And yet more have reset, recharged and come back to the fight with a little more in the tank for 2022.
Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) must lead the headlines as both the reigning Champion and a winner at the track in 2021. Yamaha is the most successful manufacturer at Losail and they took both victories at the track last year, so that’s also a good omen for Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP), two-time Qatar winner Andrea Dovizioso (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP) and his new team-mate, rookie Darryn Binder.
But pre-season testing saw a few glances of discontent for the Iwata marque in their ongoing battle to increase top speed, among other things, and it seemed reviews were mixed.
For many races in the latter half of 2021, and ominously at times, that harmony was personified elsewhere: Ducati. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo) had a few stumbles on his way to the top step in the premier class, but when he did get there, he couldn’t keep away. After an all-Ducati podium to round out the season as well, the momentum was steamrolling and hopes will remain high going into 2022.
Testing wasn’t the all-out assault on the timesheets some expected, but then cards may well remain close to chests.
Bagnaia, Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team), Jorge Martin (Pramac Racing), Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP), Johann Zarco (Pramac Racing) and Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) are quite an experienced armada for the Bologna factory, and Losail is tied as their second most successful track. Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP) both look pretty pacy too, adding some extra intrigue to the fight for Rookie of the Year.
By comparison to Yamaha most especially, for Suzuki it was a fairly glowing preseason for the Hamamatsu factory.
Smiles, gains, and quietly confident progress seemed to sum it up for 2020 World Champion Joan Mir and team-mate Alex Rins, with one thing on their shopping list – more power – seemingly delivered.
In Qatar, Suzuki haven’t finished better than fourth so a podium would be a good way to underline said progress and start building some foundations. Both Mir and Rins will also be exceptionally keen to avoid a repeat of what happened on the line to the number 36 last year as two Ducatis pipped Mir to the post.
Someone who knows that feeling at Losail is eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda). The number 93 has more MotoGP wins than the rest of the grid combined, but a couple have got away in Qatar courtesy of Dovizioso and time will tell whether the 2022 edition will prove different. It’s been a long road to recovery but recovered the Honda rider is, and facing that down could be enough of a challenge for the rest of the grid on its own.
Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda) looks to have made a key step with the all-new RC213V too, and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol) and Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) will be looking to prove the same.
For KTM, Losail isn’t the best place to start the season, having never been the kindest match for the RC16. The Austrian factory’s best result at the track is a P8.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team's Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira remain at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and both look to make 2022 the third year in a row they’ve both taken premier class wins.
There are two new kids on the block at Tech 3 KTM Factory Racing as well: 2021 Moto2 Champion Remy Gardner and the rookie who nearly beat him to the crown, Raul Fernandez. They’ll be looking to hit the ground running.
Finally, Aprilia, the MotoGP podium finishers who made plenty of headlines.
Aleix Espargaro is now an established frontrunner with the marque and took the factory’s best result at Losail of a sixth place, but Maverick Vinales is a little more settled in now too. The number 12 was also the rider on the top step in the 2021 season opener, and has won at Losail before that too, albeit with a different manufacturer.
As ever, the engines roar for race day once the sun’s gone down in Doha, and it’s 18:00 (GMT +3) local time when the field will thunder towards Turn 1 for the first time this season.
Free Practice of the premier class begins at 13:40 on Friday.