From the moment MotoGP bikes were rolled out of their garages at Jerez, Quartararo has looked in dominant form despite losing out on a second pole of 2022.
Bagnaia’s outright pace can’t be questioned so far this weekend. The Italian, especially in FP3, FP4 and Q2 rose to the fore and showed glimpses of returning to his best.
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Should that continue to take place then Bagnaia is going to be a major force in how the 2022 championship takes shape, as further poles and race wins will become a matter of when not if.
Consistency set to prove too much for Quartararo’s rivals
But with all that said, Quartararo’s metronomic race pace has been out of this world and thus, likely to prove too much for Bagnaia and the rest.
Many riders posted mid to high 1m 37s laps during practice which is expected to be race winning pace, at least in the first part of the Grand Prix before lap times fall back into the 38s, however, those laps have usually been a one-off. Quartararo on the other hand has set high 1m 37s laps for fun.
Add to that the Yamaha rider has crucially not lacked grip even when temperatures rose substantially - a potential chink in the armour others would have been hoping for.
We’ve already seen how hotter conditions affect the likes of Honda, but for Yamaha and in particular Quartararo, no such drop off has occurred.
Of course, Bagnaia’s new all-time lap record at Jerez could be the confidence boost that not only sees him challenge Quartararo, but beat the French rider come today’s sixth race of the season.
But with Portimao serving as a warning to how dominant Quartararo can be in race situations, plus Bagnaia not having other Ducati's around him to potentially hold off the Yamaha man, odds are Quartararo will begin to stretch his legs as the race goes on.
Ducati have proven to be one of the best in terms of tyre conservation in 2022, so if Bagnaia can keep pace with Quartararo early, then a late charge is not out of the question.
Tyre choice could decide the Jerez MotoGP…
With temperatures expected to be some of the hottest riders have faced in a race this year, let alone this weekend, picking the correct rear tyre will be crucial.
That’s another area where Quartararo has looked very solid. The soft tyre could struggle in a race situation, so mediums and hards are expected to be the direction for many, two tyre options Quartararo has been fast with.
Mir too far down to make an impact?
Starting third is Aleix Espargaro who has also demonstrated very good race pace, albeit not quite on the level of Quartararo or Bagnaia. A rider who has is Joan Mir, but the reason the Suzuki rider has not been mentioned as a contender for victory is due to a crash in Q2 that’s left the 2020 world champion all the way down in ninth.
Angry and wanting to recover points after the disappointment of Portimao, Mir could be very hard to stop during the race which is likely to produce spectacular viewing. However, challenging for the win from P9 is very rare in the premier class, not to mention overtaking at Jerez has traditionally proved very difficult.
Honda on the backfoot?
Although Marc Marquez qualified in fifth, the eight-time world champion did so by nicking a tow of the two fastest riders. Without Bagnaia and then Quartararo at the end of qualifying, Marquez would have likely been in major trouble.
The 29 year-old was only 19th on race pace in FP4, which comes after finishing in the same P19 on day-one.
On the other side of the Repsol Honda garage Pol Espargaro failed to advance through Q1, highlighting the Japanese manufacturer's difficulties so far this weekend. Grip seems to be the underlying issue, while Marquez has looked very ragged at times. Takaaki Nakagami has been the most controlled Honda rider and will start from P7.
Today’s race is likely to serve as damage limitation before Monday’s crucial test.
Crash.net’s Jerez MotoGP podium prediction
3. Joan Mir
2. Francesco Bagnaia
1. Fabio Quartararo
While our pick is for Quartararo to take victory, Bagnaia certainly appears to be hitting his stride after struggling mightily with the new GP22 early in the season.
Surprisingly, Bagnaia discovered his form whilst riding injured in Portimao last weekend: "Thanks again to the last race as I got again the feeling to push like today. I was missing this feeling of being so fast and so competitive. Also the FP4 was okay, so it’s a really great day." added Bagnaia in parc ferme.