Crunching The Numbers: Silly Season 2021 - An Unprecedented Youth Wave Conquers MotoGP

The current field of MotoGP riders may only be less than a season into the first year of their contracts, but the opening salvos of the 2021 season are already being fired. That is a direct consequence of almost the entire grid being on two-year deals, which run through the 2020 season. Every seat on the grid will currently be up for grabs in 2021. And because of that, teams, factories and riders are already starting to explore their options for the next season but one.

This is not something teams are particularly happy about. Team managers will grumble both on and off the record that it is a big gamble choosing riders basically on the basis of their performance two seasons before they are due to ride for you. Fear of missing out on a top rider forces their hand, however, and so teams are already making preliminary approaches about 2021.

The extreme and unusual situation of every single seat being up for grabs means that Moto2 riders are also delaying their plans. Most have only signed 1-year deals for 2020, knowing that so many options are opening up in 2021. Remy Gardner even turned down a chance to move up to MotoGP with KTM for 2020, preferring to wait for 2021 and hope for many more options then.

Youth tsunami

This wave of Moto2 riders are likely to have a profound effect on the age makeup of the MotoGP grid. MotoGP is on the cusp of a revolution, of a wave of older riders retiring or moving on, while a different wave of much younger Moto2 riders is about to enter the class. There is a changing of the guard, and of the generations.

At the heart of this is, of course, Marc Márquez. Márquez is the linchpin of the MotoGP riders market, because he is currently quite obviously the best rider in the class. This has two effects: firstly, it makes him the highest paid and most desirable rider in MotoGP – his salary looks set to rise above €20 million for 2021 once he signs a new contract with HRC (and he will stay with HRC, he has no reason to leave).

It also leads other factories to go in search of an answer to Marc Márquez, to look beyond the current field to riders who might be capable of beating the now six-time MotoGP champion. With each passing year, the current crop of riders look less and less capable of beating the Spaniard. Or rather, the crop of riders who were in MotoGP when Márquez entered the class.

There is also an element of fashion here. Teams and factories are constantly looking at each other, trying to understand what works, second guessing each other's success formula. With the arrival of Fabio Quartararo, and to a lesser extent, Joan Mir, the pendulum is swinging towards younger riders, after Johann Zarco briefly pushed it back towards more riders with more experience. The young rider trend builds on the success of Alex Rins and Maverick Viñales, who have come in and won races.

Sweeping changes

All this points to there being a clear out of older riders on the cards. And depending on who stays and who goes, that could have a profound effect on the age make up of the grid. The average age is about to fall, and the children of the 1980s are about to disappear.

The youth wave has been building for some time. The 2019 grid is the result of the previous round of contract swaps at the end of 2018. That grid was in turn mostly assembled for the start of the 2017 season, with a string of two-year deals done then.

2017

The average age of the 2017 grid taken on the 1st March that year (the 1st of the month in which the season started) was 26.87. Of the 23 full-time entries in 2017, six were in their thirties – Valentino Rossi (38), Alvaro Bautista (32), Dani Pedrosa (31), Cal Crutchlow (31), Andrea Dovizioso (30), and Hector Barbera (30).

2019

Between 2017 and 2019, a third of the grid were replaced, and the grid reduced from 23 to 22 riders. Bautista, Pedrosa, and Barbera all left, but so did Sam Lowes, Bradley Smith, Scott Redding, Loris Baz and Jonas Folger, all of whom were 26 or younger. The average age of the leavers was 27.

In their place came a group of much younger riders. Between 2017 and 2019, Takaaki Nakagami, Hafizh Syahrin, Franco Morbidelli, Miguel Oliveira, Pecco Bagnaia, Joan Mir, and Fabio Quartararo joined MotoGP. With the exception of the 27-year-old Nakagami, all were 24 or younger, with Quartararo a precocious 19 years of age. The average age of this group was 23.

The addition of all these youngsters managed to keep the average age of the 2019 grid down. The 15 riders who stayed in the class were all 2 years older on 1st March 2019, but the average age of the entire grid, including the youngsters, grew from 26.86 to 26.95. There were just 4 riders in their thirties (or in the case of Valentino Rossi, his forties) at the start of the 2019 season: Crutchlow (33), Dovizioso (32), and Jorge Lorenzo (31), and Rossi (40).

2020

Though we had not been expecting many rider changes for 2020, there are still two riders leaving, Hafizh Syahrin losing his ride at Tech3, while Johann Zarco has parted ways with KTM. Leaving aside the possibility of Zarco (29 on 1st March 2020) replacing Jorge Lorenzo (32), the addition of Brad Binder (24) and Iker Lecuona (20) means the average age of the 22 riders on the grid rises by just over half a year, to 27.5.

Lecuona is a prime example of the rejuvenation of the grid. When he lines up on the grid at Losail in Qatar next year, he will be the first rider born this century to compete in MotoGP. (For the pedants, yes, it is possible to argue that Lecuona, born on 6th January 2000, is not technically a child of the 21st Century – there was no year 0, after all – but convention has it that the zeroth year of a century counts as being in that century. A 20-year-old is, after all, in their twenties, not in their teens.)

Paradoxically, the 2020 MotoGP season also sees the number of riders in their thirties increase. At the beginning of next year, Rossi (41), Crutchlow (34), Dovizioso (33) and Jorge Lorenzo (32) will be joined by four riders who have passed their thirtieth birthday before 1st March 2020. Those riders are Tito Rabat, Aleix, Espargaro, Andrea Iannone and Karel Abraham, bring the total of over thirties to 8 riders.

Exit stage left

And it is this cohort which could easily disappear at the end of the 2020 season, and be replaced by much younger riders. Depending on a combination of retirement plans and how eager factories are to replace experience with young potential, there could be just three or four riders in their thirties in 2021.

Who could be leaving? Cal Crutchlow has publicly said he intends to retire at the end of the 2020 season, and there is little reason to doubt that will happen. Crutchlow needs surgery to remove the plate in his ankle which is still causing him extreme pain, but he will only have the surgery done once he has retired, as the recovery period is too long to allow him to prepare in the off season. Add to that the fact that his daughter will be of school-going age in 2021, and so less able to travel, and retirement looks a certainty.

Then there is Andrea Iannone. One of the most talented riders of his generation, the Italian has proven to be extremely difficult to manage, and has produced extremely inconsistent results throughout his career, but especially with Aprilia. At Phillip Island, Iannone finished within spitting distance of the podium. Prior to that, he had only finished inside the top ten twice, and has scored points in ten of the eighteen races held so far.

The team managers (factory and private) that I have spoken to all believe that Iannone will be gone at the end of the 2020 season. Unless a satellite team is willing to take a chance on the Italian, in the hope of a few good results, it is hard to see him still being in MotoGP in 2021. He will readily find a seat in WorldSBK, which needs a rider with Iannone's mixture of talent and character to add some spice to the championship.

Minimal case

If Crutchlow and Iannone are the only two riders to leave for 2021 – a possible but unlikely scenario – and two of the youngsters from Moto2 make the move up (Alex Márquez (24 on 1st March 2021) and Luca Marini (23) are two likely candidates), then the average age of the MotoGP grid will not change much, despite 20 riders getting a year older. The average age would rise from 27.5 to 27.64.

But there is too much talent in Moto2, and too many riders approaching the age where they might consider retirement. In addition to Alex Márquez and Luca Marini, there is Jorge Navarro (25 on 1st March 2021), Augusto Fernandez (23), Lorenzo Baldassarri (24), Fabio Di Giannantonio (22), Jorge Martin (23) and Remy Gardner (also 23). The average age of this group is 23.38, just over 23 years and 4 months. It seems a fair bet the vast majority – likely six or seven – of these riders will get a chance. And we can't rule out Enea Bastianini (23), Xavi Vierge (23), or even Nicolo Bulega (21) getting a shot in 2021.

So who else makes way for young talent? Jorge Lorenzo is an obvious answer. If the Spaniard does not regain his speed and recover his confidence after his most miserable season in MotoGP, and does not look competitive in 2020, there is every chance he will choose to retire.

Dealing with greatness

Valentino Rossi is going to be a key piece of the 2021 puzzle. The Italian will be 42 before the start of the 2021 season, and is still a long way from making up his mind about his future. On the one hand, he has still shown that he can be competitive: he has two podiums this season, and came up just shy of a third at Sepang.

But on the other hand, he is looking like he is falling behind the very top of the grid. Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Maverick Viñales has won two races this season, and won a race in 2018 as well. It has been 46 races (oh irony) since Rossi last won a race, back at Assen in 2017. That is longer than the period at Ducati, between winning at Sepang in 2010 and then Assen in 2013. (Incidentally, MotoGP statistician Dr Martin Raines pointed out to me that if neither Rossi nor Lorenzo win at Valencia this year, then 2019 will be the first year in which none of the original MotoGP Aliens – Rossi, Lorenzo, Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa – has won a race since Lorenzo joined MotoGP in 2008.)

Yamaha really need Valentino Rossi to make a decision. Rossi is too important to Yamaha to lose his seat in the factory team to another rider, and Yamaha is too important to Rossi for him to consider leaving for another manufacturer. So Yamaha are keeping a seat for him in 2021 unless he decides to retire.

The problem is, by keeping his seat for him, they risk losing their two biggest assets: Maverick Viñales has been doing the winning for Yamaha in the last couple of seasons, and Fabio Quartararo is too big a talent to lose to another factory. Both have offers from other factories, and will be able to name their price, more or less.

Desmo no more?

Given that he is second in the championship, it is surprising that the name of Andrea Dovizioso comes up so often when you talk to team managers of riders who might find themselves without a seat in 2021. Dovizioso has played a huge part in helping develop the Ducati Desmosedici from a no-hoper to runner up in the championship for the past three seasons. But there have been growing tensions between the Italian and Ducati Corse boss Gigi Dall'Igna, in no small part due to Dall'Igna refusing to prioritize the Ducati's lack of corner speed, the feature which Dovizioso has been complaining is the bike's biggest weakness ever since he joined the Italian factory.

As a consequence, there is every chance that Dovizioso leaves Ducati at the end of 2020. But where would he go? Joining Marc Márquez at Honda might be an option, Márquez choosing to keep his friends close but his enemies closer, and having a rider he knows he can beat on the same bike could make him an attractive prospective teammate for the reigning world champion. Yamaha already have plenty of options, and Suzuki have a full complement of young riders.

That leaves KTM and Aprilia. Both of those are risky propositions, particularly viewed from here, November 2019. Improvement is possible, but could they be competitive in 2021? Would Dovizioso be willing to take the risk on one or both of them? And might KTM or Aprilia prefer to take a chance on a younger rider? This is especially true of KTM, who already have three young and talented riders signed for 2020.

Quality control

Then there is the Avintia Reale MotoGP team. It is far from certain that Avintia will continue in MotoGP in 2021, despite having a contract to do so. Dorna have been trying to weed out the weaker teams – something they have successfully done with the Aspar/Angel Nieto team this year – and replacing them with teams with a more solid financial basis. There are persistent rumors of a Suzuki satellite team, something which could happen in 2021. And if Valentino Rossi retires at the end of 2020, there could also be a VR46 Yamaha team, Yamaha having to find the resources to field 6 MotoGP machines in 2021.

If the Avintia Reale MotoGP team do disappear, that would be the end for Karel Abraham and Tito Rabat (both 31 on 1st March 2021). Both riders are race winners, and Rabat is a Moto2 world champion, but both men have proved to be eminently replaceable in MotoGP. Neither have a premier class podium, and if teams don't need the sponsorship which the pair bring, they will choose the potential of younger riders any time.

Logan's Run

If all of the above retirements do happen, that would radically change the shape of the 2021 MotoGP grid. It would reduce the average age from 27.5 in 2020 to 24.86 in 2021, and reduce the number of riders in their thirties to just one, Aleix Espargaro, at age 31. If Espargaro does not stay with Aprilia and is out of MotoGP, then that would mean not a single rider over the age of 29 in MotoGP in 2021.

That would be a true revolution. For as far back as I can see in history, the permanent MotoGP grid has never consisted entirely of riders under the age of 30. Indeed, after checking with Dr Martin Raines, he believes that there has never been a MotoGP grid consisting entirely of riders younger than 30.

How young would this theoretical MotoGP grid be? 14 of the 22 riders would be 25 or under. 18 of them would be younger than 27. At 28 years of age on 1st March 2021, Marc Márquez would be the fourth oldest rider on the grid. Márquez ceased to be the young upstart a couple of seasons ago, but by 2021, he will be fast approaching the status of grizzled veteran.

This changing of the guard may be refreshing, but it will bring with it a whole new set of problems for 2022 and beyond. After all, if you have a field full of riders in their early and mid twenties, where are the young riders coming up from Moto3 and Moto2 supposed to go?

Data

The tables I created for this article are below. When looking at the 2021 line up, I have only looked at age, not at pairing riders with teams and factories (though that would give a more accurate reflection, perhaps, and a clue as to who is to stay and who will leave), so no manufacturer appears next to the names of the riders for the 2021 scenarios.

2017 MotoGP Line Up

2017 Rider line up     Age on 01/03/17
46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 16/02/79 38
19 Alvaro BAUTISTA Ducati 21/11/84 32
26 Dani PEDROSA Honda 29/09/85 31
35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 29/10/85 31
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 23/03/86 30
8 Hector BARBERA Ducati 02/11/86 30
99 Jorge LORENZO Ducati 04/05/87 29
53 Tito RABAT Honda 25/05/89 27
41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 30/07/89 27
29 Andrea IANNONE Suzuki 09/08/89 27
17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 02/01/90 27
5 Johann ZARCO Yamaha 16/07/90 26
22 Sam LOWES Aprilia 14/09/90 26
9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 24/10/90 26
38 Bradley SMITH KTM 28/11/90 26
44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 10/06/91 25
45 Scott REDDING Ducati 04/01/93 24
76 Loris BAZ Ducati 01/02/93 24
93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 17/02/93 24
94 Jonas FOLGER Yamaha 13/08/93 23
25 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 12/01/95 22
43 Jack MILLER Honda 18/01/95 22
42 Alex RINS Suzuki 08/12/95 21
      Mean 26.87
  Mode 26 Median 26
      30 year olds 6

2019 MotoGP Line Up

2019 rider line up     Age on 01/03/19
46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 16/02/79 40
35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 29/10/85 33
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 23/03/86 32
99 Jorge LORENZO Honda 04/05/87 31
53 Tito RABAT Ducati 25/05/89 29
41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 30/07/89 29
29 Andrea IANNONE Aprilia 09/08/89 29
17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 02/01/90 29
5 Johann ZARCO KTM 16/07/90 28
9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 24/10/90 28
44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 10/06/91 27
30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda 09/02/92 27
93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 17/02/93 26
55 Hafizh SYAHRIN KTM 05/05/94 24
21 Franco MORBIDELLI Yamaha 04/12/94 24
88 Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM 04/01/95 24
12 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 12/01/95 24
43 Jack MILLER Ducati 18/01/95 24
42 Alex RINS Suzuki 08/12/95 23
63 Francesco BAGNAIA Ducati 14/01/97 22
36 Joan MIR Suzuki 01/09/97 21
20 Fabio QUARTARARO Yamaha 20/04/99 19
      Mean 26.95
  Mode 24 Median 27
      30 year olds 4

2020 MotoGP Line Up

2020 Rider line up     Age on 01/03/20
46 Valentino ROSSI Yamaha 16/02/79 41
35 Cal CRUTCHLOW Honda 29/10/85 34
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO Ducati 23/03/86 33
99 Jorge LORENZO Honda 04/05/87 32
53 Tito RABAT Ducati 25/05/89 30
41 Aleix ESPARGARO Aprilia 30/07/89 30
29 Andrea IANNONE Aprilia 09/08/89 30
17 Karel ABRAHAM Ducati 02/01/90 30
9 Danilo PETRUCCI Ducati 24/10/90 29
44 Pol ESPARGARO KTM 10/06/91 28
30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI Honda 09/02/92 28
93 Marc MARQUEZ Honda 17/02/93 27
21 Franco MORBIDELLI Yamaha 04/12/94 25
88 Miguel OLIVEIRA KTM 04/01/95 25
12 Maverick VIÑALES Yamaha 12/01/95 25
43 Jack MILLER Ducati 18/01/95 25
14 Brad Binder KTM 11/08/95 24
42 Alex RINS Suzuki 08/12/95 24
63 Francesco BAGNAIA Ducati 14/01/97 23
36 Joan MIR Suzuki 01/09/97 22
20 Fabio QUARTARARO Yamaha 20/04/99 20
27 Iker Lecuona KTM 06/01/00 20
      Mean 27.50
  Mode 25 Median 27.5
      30 year olds 8

2021 – Minimal Retirements

2021 Minimal retirements   Age on 01/03/21
46 Valentino ROSSI   16/02/79 42
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO   23/03/86 34
99 Jorge LORENZO   04/05/87 33
53 Tito RABAT   25/05/89 31
41 Aleix ESPARGARO   30/07/89 31
17 Karel ABRAHAM   02/01/90 31
9 Danilo PETRUCCI   24/10/90 30
44 Pol ESPARGARO   10/06/91 29
30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI   09/02/92 29
93 Marc MARQUEZ   17/02/93 28
21 Franco MORBIDELLI   04/12/94 26
88 Miguel OLIVEIRA   04/01/95 26
12 Maverick VIÑALES   12/01/95 26
43 Jack MILLER   18/01/95 26
14 Brad Binder   11/08/95 25
42 Alex RINS   08/12/95 25
73 Alex MARQUEZ   23/04/96 24
63 Francesco BAGNAIA   14/01/97 24
10 Luca MARINI   10/08/97 23
36 Joan MIR   01/09/97 23
20 Fabio QUARTARARO   20/04/99 21
27 Iker Lecuona   06/01/00 21
      Mean 27.64
  Mode 26 Mean (Without Rossi) 26.95
      Median 26
      30 year olds 7

2021 – Middle Scenario

2021 Middle case retirements   Age on 01/03/21
4 Andrea DOVIZIOSO   23/03/86 34
53 Tito RABAT   25/05/89 31
41 Aleix ESPARGARO   30/07/89 31
17 Karel ABRAHAM   02/01/90 31
9 Danilo PETRUCCI   24/10/90 30
44 Pol ESPARGARO   10/06/91 29
30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI   09/02/92 29
93 Marc MARQUEZ   17/02/93 28
21 Franco MORBIDELLI   04/12/94 26
88 Miguel OLIVEIRA   04/01/95 26
12 Maverick VIÑALES   12/01/95 26
43 Jack MILLER   18/01/95 26
14 Brad Binder   11/08/95 25
42 Alex RINS   08/12/95 25
9 Jorge NAVARRO   03/02/96 25
73 Alex MARQUEZ   23/04/96 24
63 Francesco BAGNAIA   14/01/97 24
10 Luca MARINI   10/08/97 23
36 Joan MIR   01/09/97 23
88 Jorge MARTIN   29/01/98 23
20 Fabio QUARTARARO   20/04/99 21
27 Iker Lecuona   06/01/00 21
      Mean 26.41
  Mode 26 Median 26
      30 year olds 5

2021 – Maximum Retirements Of Older Riders

2021 Maximum retirements   Age on 01/03/21  
41 Aleix ESPARGARO   30/07/89 31 22
44 Pol ESPARGARO   10/06/91 29 21
30 Takaaki NAKAGAMI   09/02/92 29 20
93 Marc MARQUEZ   17/02/93 28 19
21 Franco MORBIDELLI   04/12/94 26 18
88 Miguel OLIVEIRA   04/01/95 26 17
12 Maverick VIÑALES   12/01/95 26 16
43 Jack MILLER   18/01/95 26 15
14 Brad Binder   11/08/95 25 14
42 Alex RINS   08/12/95 25 13
9 Jorge NAVARRO   03/02/96 25 12
73 Alex MARQUEZ   23/04/96 24 11
7 Lorenzo BALDASSARRI   06/11/96 24 10
63 Francesco BAGNAIA   14/01/97 24 9
10 Luca MARINI   10/08/97 23 8
36 Joan MIR   01/09/97 23 7
40 Augusto FERNANDEZ   23/09/97 23 6
88 Jorge MARTIN   29/01/98 23 5
87 Remy GARDNER   24/02/98 23 4
21 Fabio DI GIANNANTONIO   10/10/98 22 3
20 Fabio QUARTARARO   20/04/99 21 2
27 Iker Lecuona   06/01/00 21 1
      Mean 24.86  
  Mode 23 Median 24.5  
      30 year olds 1  

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year: 
2021
Total votes: 64
Total votes: 58

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Comments

Fun age geek out. We are in an era of transformation that is really interesting in many dynamic ways.

Age change and how unusual it is noted. There are just a few young riders that stick out. And a couple of specific developments. Thanks for mentioning the Suzuki 2nd team, that seems most pivotal. And a VR46 Yamaha team, which could either arise as an addition or possibly merge with the Factory team? Can/will DORNA add two bikes to the grid for these? Can/will Suzuki get those next steps?

I know what is preferable, but really keen to see this unfolding. And the kids coming are interesting specifically as what sort of rider arriving on what bike. The Ducati for wonder kid Bagnaia for instance, so tough! Were he on a Jr Team Suzuki, well funded and supported with experience (two big solid teams that are not currently in MotoGP MUST want to get these Suzukis!).

Jack swaps with Petrucci now too btw, another youth move. At Duc for Dovisioso, it is complex. People interpret it personally between he and Gigi, a difficulty yes, but not causal. Dovi is pushed to ride THIS bike more consistently up front. Gigi is pushed to further engineer a more conventional handling bike. But there is a question remaining re a rider for Red. They have several great riders, yes. But do the have an excellent rider-bike combo? And what is coming of Bagnaia, ending the season with a couple of mild surges in performance contrasting with tepid work? Of course there have been a couple of disconcerning bits in the past there re Duc-rider relations. Now I see little personal, there will be pressure for new Red blood. That is a great bike that offers much, can be over ridden, and still developing. They should keep some circulation of riders in one seat to discover that combo. Specifically, like KTM, with a young new kid that hasn't settled in w a Suzuki or Yamaha yet.

Interesting, this conflicting dynamic in which kids don't want the Duc or KTM, and do Yamaha and Suzuki. Yamaha is over full of talent and aging out, Suzuki has two seats and little funding. Duc lacks a wunderkid that clicks onboard. And then there is Honda, where riders go to die a slow career death in a MM93 bridesmaid shadow.

This youth movement may also be seen one of new bikes and teams. And even one of engineering strategy, fresh needed to thrive. And rapid adaptation. Even organizational structure. The whole circus has a lightened flywheel and quarter turn throttle.

Total votes: 34

If any of those young guns want to make an impression, first they have to get past Dovisioso. Even with only 2 wins this year he's on track for his highest scoring GP season, having stuck a fork in second place with races to spare, again.

Certainly some riders can match and beat Dovi on a given weekend. But over the total of the last three years it's been Marc Marquez, then the gap to Andrea Dovisioso, then the gap to everyone else. It might be a smaller gap than the yawning chasm between Marc and everyone else, but it is there.

Yet Ducati seem to be intent on replacing him again.

I would love to know what's going on in the heads of Ducati's management. They have a rider who has out performed every single team mate they've given him, including their multi million Euro star signing Lorenzo. He's the only rider to stand up to and beat Marc Marquez one to one with any consistency. He's been faultlessly loyal and they still seem intent to kick the stool from under him.

Did he sleep with someone's wife? Did he refuse to sleep with someone's wife? What gives?

I can understand that they are looking for the next Rossi/Stoner/Marquez but they have a perfectly good second seat to keep trying new riders on while Dovi does the business. Danillo's not looking like he'll rack up double digits wins for them anytime soon. As for the other teams, I can see Honda offering him another crack at the RCV. Marc is confident in beating him, Dovi is the king of bike development, nobody else would stand a chance.

Total votes: 43

I know this can't happen, not like Dorna hasn't changed the rules blantantly rule beforem but wouldn't be nice to see Rossi's last year inhis own single rider garage with his own Factory crew in the yellow Nastro Azzurro colors? Just for ol times sake?

Total votes: 22

Would make sense for Yamaha since it would allow them to keep both Quartararo and Viñales without upsetting the Rossi Fan Club.

Total votes: 3

Wonderful analysis, David, and thanks for breaking out all the data at the end! Brilliant, mate.

What's in the Shop Window?

As you pointed out, the Teams have a real dilemma in that they have to agree to a pre-arranged marriage well in advance, and then wonder who will eventually be walking down the aisle. At the reception will they hear "you lucky dog"...or..."I hear she doesn't sweat much for a fat girl"?

But the riders face the same issue; they have to agree to ride a bike that doesn't yet exist, and won't until well after they are already engaged to be the bride. So for 2021, what is in the shop window are just the 2020 models, and on that basis alone they will need to decide. I think a lot of how attractive the Teams are, and what they will have to pay for talent, is very much dependent on how they perform in the first three or four races next Spring.

Yamaha - It is very close to being the best bike on the gird. Add some power and soften the chassis a bit more and they may be the irresistible bachelor. Fabio and Maverick will be courted by every Team on the grid, but if the next M1 is a World Beater, how much does that weigh on their decision? While it may be argued that Ruling in Hell is better than Serving in Heaven, Ruling in Heaven beats them both. As far as Vale is concerned, Iwata should focus first on Fabio and Maverick and hold firm to the belief that whatever Vale wants for 2021 can be sorted out later (with DORNA's blessing and full support). Even the other Teams, and more importantly their sponsors, are aware of how many eyeballs Vale still brings to the sport. And if they needed a reminder the turn one grandstands at Sepang should have done the trick. In any event a seat on a Petronas SRT bike may be the second next most coveted place on the grid in 2021, maybe over all the non-Yamaha Factory Teams. Moto2 to M1 transition ease = High

Suzuki - They already have the dilemma you pointed out; they are fully stocked with young talent (though subject to poaching by Teams with deeper pockets for 2021). But if they can keep the upward trajectory of the RR-GSX into next year they will have a bike that will be difficult to walk away from, and a new Satellite Team in 2021 would have to rate as a first choice for young talent. The question with Suzuki is...what can they afford? Keeping their current riders and funding a new satellite team may not be in the cards if the only cash in their wallet is what they make selling outboard motor oil. Moto2 to RR-GSX transition ease = High

Ducati - One can always expect some nice steps forward from Gigi, which should give Dovi another year in the sun and a chance to show the bike off to the pool of prospective brides in Moto2, or allow them to run off with a current rising star from MotoGP. But I fear it will not be enough for Petrux, who I see as a WSBK rider in 2021. So Ducati may have two seats open in 2021 (as unlike Danilo, I would expect it will be entirely Dovi's choice to say "Ciao"). Jack is in with a shout for one of them, but he needs to be a race winner, or Ducati will just buy someone who is. Moto2 to Desomosedici GP transition ease = Medium.

Honda - On paper the HRC marriage should be every young bride's dream. The highest budgets and deepest technical resources on the grid. But then there is the reputation of the RC213V, which means the chance of finding not Prince Charming but an ill-tempered badger with a taste for man-flesh in your wedding bed. On top of that, for the next three-to-four years (at least), you will be playing second fiddle to MM. OK, that may hold true no matter where the young talent signs, but with an HRC ride you will always be on the dinner invitations as "Mr. Marquez...and friend". Honda needs to re-stock the shelves, but with a healthy MM there is no panic to do so, however the clock is ticking. It would be helpful next year to show the next generation something cuddlier than what they have now. The RC213V will always be a badger, but perhaps they could tone down the "ill-tempered' chracteristics a tad. That just might work for a Moto2 rider with less Yamaha DNA and more rear wheel steering talents. And it will be fast, so good or bad you will never forget your wedding night. Moto2 to RC213V transition ease = Low to "its really up to the badger".

KTM - It does not help when your last bride bolted from the honeymoon suite screaming "the brute, he's horrible". And we all have to remember that Zarco was not just one of four riders, he was the Star of the KTM effort, agressively courted and paid handsomely. So they need to re-stock the shelves with talent for 2021, and for that they need a consistent top ten bike that does not pitch riders on their ears so much. The drop-off in RC16 results over the latter part of this year is not surprising, as I would suspect that all of their efforts have been diverted to the 2020 bike. Vague rumors now circulating point to Dani as well on the way to delivering a much improved package for next year. Maybe enough so that the groom can change his name from Sid Viscous to Sid not-so-bad-once-you-get-to-know-him. Moto2 to Red Bull KTM transition ease = Well, Sid got married, how'd that work out?.

Aprilia - Rolling with a clean sheet design for 2020, and if that doesn't work there will be little to talk about with regards to 2021. Next year will be Iannone's last shot at anything other than being a poster boy for facial reconstruction and Instagram fame, so he should be motivated...except that I am not always convinced that word is in his current lexicon (which is a shame, because of all the current riders, Andrea takes absolutely zero crap from MM on the track). Aleix is a mystery because it has been ages since I have regularly seen him on a fully competitive bike, or one that didn't suffer a mechanical DNF every ninth lap. But if they can put together a bike that is finally better than the previous year's Ducati, this could be a real high-risk/high-reward ride for a young gun in 2021. There is a lot of design talent in Noale, but Aprilia will need to fill an inside straight to keep a seat at the table. Moto2 to Red Bull KTM transition ease = Well, the food in the hospitality tent is absolutely top-notch, streets beyond anything you have seen in the lower divisions, so "Buon apetito!"

So for a hotshot Moto2 pilot looking to take the next step up in 2021, Suzuki and Yamaha are the obvious choices. And just as obviously both Team's dance cards are already full, with no lack of suitors queued up. Competitive bikes that are also not sexually attracted to gravel will do that. Two seats at a Suzuki Satellite Team (still a big maybe), and one at Petronas, so it looks like there will be more dogs than bones in 2021.

Ducati is (now) always an attractive ride, but their first priority will be to poach an existing talent...or two. Their satellite support is first rate, and the bike will never be a career killer.

Honda is still the gold standard for MotoGP Teams, but they can be a bit...well...thrifty with their satellite bikes, so it comes down to how much you like badgers...and washing Marc's motor home.

KTM - If your resume reads "steel framed Moto2 experience", that is helpful. A bit. KTM say they don't want to hire another "Yamaha-style" rider. The bad news is almost everyone coming out of Moto2 is pretty much a Yamaha-style rider down to their DNA. But let's see what kind of fruit Dani's farm produces in the Spring. With one or two exceptions, all the Moto2 guys fall off too much as it is, so choose wisely.

Aprilia - See you at the Spring tests. I hope they shine. I hope a lot of things.

And all of this can change between the time the riders sign a contract and the actual 2021 bikes are wheeled out for Spring testing. Just like David said. Cheers.

Total votes: 55

...and how do you not have your own column? Perhaps it's better this way, actually. "I hear she doesn't sweat much for a fat girl." Classic, I mean damn.

Total votes: 21

Just a couple of things I'm gonna throw into your great musical chairs mix-tape:

1. Everybody, with the exception of Marc Marquez and HRC, is struggling to quantify the RCV.  Crutchlow has duct-taped the trigger on the loud hailer, shouting at everyone who'll listen, that it's sooooo hard to ride, but I kinda get the feeling he's been happy comparing himself to Lorenzo and Nakagami and is therefore exceeding expectations.  When really he should have been comparing himself to Marquez who has done a demolition job on the championship, thanks in no small part to the 2019 RCV.

The RCV may be the crazy hot emo chick of the grid, but Marc seems to be happy in love where cardigan/socks 'n sandals wearing Crutchlow isn't such a good fit.  But then Cal could win a Ferrari and would complain about the colour.  I'm not saying we should shoot the messenger but it's worth noting the journey to get here, and Cal has always travelled with an underdog as his faithful companion.  

2. Vinales may have done Yamaha's winning of late but as recent as last year Rossi was still the top Yamaha points scorer by years' end, equal on podiums with Vinales (4).  Vinales has shown a dance move that Rossi couldn't quite follow this year, but next year will be interesting: if the old boy gets a bike that allows him to thrash the rear tyre as he'd like, MotoGP's Sean Connery could still dazzle at the gala.

3. I actually fear Fabio jumping onto a Factory M1, with the "Factory" part being the main concern. As far as hot chicks go, the Factory team remind me of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction: Jarvis wouldn't bat an eye at boiling a bunny.

Where Petronas/Zeelenberg have tenderly whispered sweet nothings and magic'd Fabio from a scarred PTSD'd young war veteran into the most eligible batchelor at the ball.  Zeelenberg gets far too little credit.  So Fabio may be a great fit for the sweetheart next door that is the M1, I'm not so sure he can live with some of her dysfunctional family.  This is MotoGP's version of "Crazy Rich Asians", it may be best for all concerned that Fabio/Petronas stay loved up in the family beach house than transfer to the main mansion.

Total votes: 25

Mr. Emmet, is there any substance to the rumors of Zarco replacing Lorenzo? 

I found the article by Mr. Oxley to be quite revealing. It is rare that a top athlete admits that he is not taking risks due to an injury. As admirable as his honesty is, I highly doubt that Honda will be willing to spend millions on Lorenzo in the hopes he recovers and gets up to speed when Zarco has demonstrated incredible pace on a very similar bike after just two sessions. 

Your article regarding Marquez's salary was duly noted, but we often forget that Lorenzo is getting paid a tidy sum as well. I assumed performance clauses were commonplace in rider contracts. If so, is it correct to assume that Lorenzo is simply being honest and waiting for Honda to buy him out of his contract?

Very interesting time indeed for the sport. Zarco's disaster at KTM may require us to revise Mr. Jeremy Burgess' "80/20" rule. 

Total votes: 19

Honda already announced their riders for next season in all the disciplines they compete in. Zarco isn't on that list, but I suppose that could change. 

Total votes: 11

A column indicating nation of origin would also be interesting for readers such as myself who are too lazy to look it up. It's neither good nor bad, but there aren't going to be many fast guys in 2021 who speak English as their first language (although it looks like two might speak Australian).

Aside from my disappointment as a north american fan that our only world championship event will be COTA in the future, you might think a south asian rider (growth market!) or two should be on the grid, despite Syahrin's results.

 

 

Total votes: 21

The problem is, by keeping his seat for him, they risk losing their two biggest assets: Maverick Viñales has been doing the winning for Yamaha in the last couple of seasons, and Fabio Quartararo is too big a talent to lose to another factory.

Someone explain this to me, please. Why would Vinales be opposed to Rossi staying on? He's got machine parity and a good relationship with Rossi. No skin off his nose if Rossi stays.

As for Quartararo, where the hell would he go? Suzuki is full up, and whether his Moto2 style would work on any of the V4 machines is an open question. In any event, Yamaha appears to have already caught up with Ducati, and by 2020/2021 might be able to challenge Marquez's Honda. It would incredible if Quartararo's management, having seen what's became of Zarco & Lorenzo, choose to risk Fabio's career with asinine switch anytime in the near future.

As far as competitiveness is concerned - if Rossi could win a championship on a Nastro Azzurro Honda, there's no reason why Quartararo can't win one on a Petronas Yamaha. Yamaha is giving him an A-spec bike. Petronas are likely paying him as much as any factory team would (if not more). He's 20 years old. Why leave? What's the hurry?

Total votes: 24

If Rossi stays then there is no place for FQ as 3 does not go into 2. As where would FQ then go, I'd harbor a guess that a lucrative contract at Ducati or Suzuki would still be better than staying at Petronas SRT which, aside from not being a factory team (say what you will but satellite teams are not going to win a championship anytime soon), also does not have pockets as deep as the factory teams. 

Total votes: 27

Maverick Vinales has "a good relationship with Rossi" Really ????

From what Maverick was saying after Sepang 2018 I beg to differ. And Vinales has had some complaints for a fair bit of the last three seasons. Re; the Yamaha's development pathway, unequal responses to rider input, feedback etc. But I only actually heard it straight from Top Gun last year in the Sama Sama hotel.

Thanks for another great article David. Hang in there, the off season is just around the corner.

Total votes: 15

They don't hold hands and take long walks on the beach together, but as top riders on the same bike go, they have a perfectly cordial relationship.

Vinales had complaints about the bike and team last year but that was more a consequence of his own personal struggles. Aside from his crew chief, the Yamaha organisation remains unchanged from the end of 2018, and yet Vinales appears to be in a happy place. Replacing Rossi with Quartararo doesn't improve Vinales' prospects a jot, and if I understand that, so does Vinales.

Total votes: 14

If MotoGP stays at about the same grid size what happens to the bulk of the riders in the two feeder classes? Do they stay where they are until they retire? Wouldn't that result in those grids aging in place? It seems to me the youth movement dies on its own because the 'career path' is limited by the bottleneck in the MotoGP grid. All three grids might start to get a lot older after 2021. My guess is that Grand Prix motorcycle racing has gone through these age cycles before. 

Total votes: 16

What I would hope would happen would be that Dorna will weed out the weaker teams and riders like Tito Rabat will no longer be able to buy themselves a plaything and ride around without intent. The lower finishing riders will be replaced much more quickly, as they should be

Total votes: 14

Moto3, Moto2, and MotoGP riders with poor to middling results often migrate to WSS300, WSS, and WSBK, respectively.

Total votes: 2

Isn't Petronas basically like a full factory team? They have ton of money, 2 factory bikes, and a star of the future. Would it not be reasonable if Vale/Mav stayed in the factory squad in 2021 for obvious reasons and quartaro was still guaranteed factory support in petronas, isn't that ok?  I mean, Vale won the 2001 title on the NA Honda in similar circumstances. Just saying!

Total votes: 18

The factories are loath to allow the satellite team to outdo them; won't happen. If Petronas starts getting consistently better results the factory team will all on the sudden receive major updates that the satellite team won't get. A satellite team won't be winning the title. Of course, nobody not named Marc Marquez will be winning a title anytime soon

Total votes: 17

I'm too lazy to check the stats but haven't they been doing that throughout the second half of the season? But I'd agree anyway that the factory smiles will become even more forced if it continues and stuff will be done to correct that anomaly. Vale isn't the only old boy in those garages.

I'm still hopeful that the hegemony will end soon. Though every time I predict it'll come tomorrow Márquez displays yet another level of ability beyond belief. It's getting to be like one of those online games where, just when you think this MUST be as hard as it gets, and you crack it, you find there's still another level above.

Total votes: 19

Maverick is top Yamaha and FQ is only 6 points ahead of Rossi. Factory team will finish well ahead of Petronas in team standings, currently 367-187. As for MM93 - just lie back and enjoy it, it ain't coming to an end anytime soon.

 

Total votes: 15

True, but now that I've looked through the stats the thing that struck me was that, when Quartararo finished, most of the time he finished ahead of Viñales. But he dnf'ed more. I don't remember the circumstances for the dnf's in the early part of the year, he hadn't caught my eye at that point, but it looks like he could have easily been ahead of Viñales if he'd crashed less. That sparks another thought - way back when, when Stoner was first on a Honda, I remember not getting what all the fuss was about as he seemed to bin it every other race. And we all know what happened a year or so later. I'm hopeful again. It's coming, trust me :-).

Total votes: 17

Jerez: shifter failure Lap13

Sachsenring: Fell. Lap 2

Silverstone: Highside Lap 1 

Phillip Island: Petruccificated Lap 1

Total votes: 15

There are other factors that need consideration than age.
Success in the feeder classes is desired, particularly in the class immediately below MotoGP but perceived learning speed and adaptability is increasingly important .

The current MotoGP grid includes125/Moto3 champions from 1997, 2004, 2013 &2014. More critically it includes 250/Moto2 champions from 1999, 2006 & 07, 2012, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18.
Almost all of the current successful MotoGP riders (ie some year top 6 or better at end of season) have finished in the top 3 of a 250/Moto2 championship. The exceptions are Crutchlow and Petrucci who both skipped the feeder GP classes, Morbidelli missed Moto3, Miller (2nd in Moto3) who went straight from Moto3 to MotoGP and Quarteraro who has landed in a good team with a good bike seeming on the basis of an informed gamble.

Riders that haven’t done well in MotoGP and are not rookies tend to not have done well in Moto2. Eg Abraham, Sayarin, Nakagami, Aleix Espargaro. This is in part because their previous lack of success in the feeder classes denies them access to the bikes and teams that perform in MotoGP.

Rabat is another exception in that he is a Moto2 champion but has not performed in MotoGP. Bad bikes and teams are a factor but another consideration is that he seems to be a slow learner. It took him 10 years in the feeder classes to get his Moto2 title. The best performing MotoGP riders got through the feeder classes quickly which requires them to adjust to new bikes and classes more often. Miller is the extreme, only having spent 3 years in Moto3 only, Morbidelli four years in Moto2 only, while  Rossi, Mir, Vinales & Quartararo managed to get through both feeder classes in four years, Marquez & Rins five, all the others longer.

My suspicion is that too long in the feeder classes is a sign to team managers that  either a rider is not good enough for MotOGP or that they will struggle to adapt if they get there. For example Zarco who struggled to adapt to the KTM was in the feeders 8 years, Rabat has been mentioned. Riders who have been through the feeders quickly tend to be younger.

The struggles of both Zarco and Lorenzo and the success of Quartararo is encouraging greater consideration of the ability to adapt and to get the best out of a bike that may not be good.  19yo Lecuona will be pitchforked into MotGP next year after 3 ½ years in Moto2 and only one podium in the hope that he can adapt better to the KTM than someone who has been in the feeders longer. Alex Marquez by comparison has been in the feeder classes much longer, when he gets to MotoGP (and as Moto2 champion he should) it will be interesting to see how quickly he adapts.

Total votes: 24

So it should, thanks, omission error in conversion from summary to text

I was surprised it took Marquez 3 years to win his 125 WC. If it was a quiz i would have said 2 and got it wrong.

Total votes: 1

Awesome article from David and excellent insight from the community! Good work everyone!

Total votes: 18