2020 is here and a new chapter of MotoGP history is set to be written between the familiar faces and the emerging talents in a season which could also shape the future of the sport.

MotoGP is already gearing up for the team launches and the Sepang tests at the start of February so it is an ideal time to forecast which running storylines will take centre stage in 2020 and what surprises could follow, starting with potentially one of the most frenetic rider markets ever.

1. MotoGP’s silliest of silly seasons

With the exception of Tito Rabat who has a two-year deal at Avintia Ducati, every rider on the MotoGP grid is out of contract at the end of 2020.

Given major deals were being signed before the season even started two years ago, the last time extensive rider changes were in play, expect a few contract confirmations between now and the MotoGP opener in Qatar.

Marc Marquez will be key in getting the ball rolling on rider deals, with the assumption that he stays put at Repsol Honda for the foreseeable future, while the sport’s other major star Valentino Rossi also set to be pivotal in the rider market (more on him later).

In terms of potential movers on the MotoGP grid, focus will be given to Yamaha’s conundrum of Rossi, Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo with three riders for two factory seats meaning one could be heading elsewhere for 2021.

Similarly, Ducati could also look to shake-up its rider roster especially if Danilo Petrucci continues his poor form at the start of the 2020 campaign. Jack Miller is building his case for a factory seat in 2021 with suitors also lining up if he finds his path blocked at Ducati.

The impact of any moves at the sharp end of the MotoGP grid will have a trickledown effect for the rest, while the next wave of Moto2 youngsters could also follow if a handful of the older generation call time on their careers.

2. Rossi’s MotoGP future – and other elder campaigners at the top

With Rossi turning 41 before the start of the 2020 MotoGP season, nobody would begrudge the nine-time world champion on calling time on his career at the end of this year. While he’s outstayed almost all of his rivals – with Sete Gibernau even making a comeback in MotoE before retiring again – the Italian has made it clear he will make a call on his future over the first half of the upcoming season.

Depending on Rossi’s decision it will either give Yamaha a straightforward situation or a rider headache, even if the Doctor is ready to step down to Petronas Yamaha SRT squad to make room at the factory squad, as he is reportedly open in doing so.

While Rossi, in terms of age, stands out as a candidate ready for the pipe-and-slippers scenario two other front-runners are also the wrong side of 30 in a sport where its stars are getting younger and younger.

Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso will be 34 and 33 respectively at the beginning of this season with the next-nearest trio of Rabat, Aleix Espargaro and Andrea Iannone all having just turned 30.

Crutchlow has spoken openly about retiring following the conclusion of the 2020 campaign due to his pressing family commitments with a young daughter plus his battles with injury.

Dovizioso hasn’t been included in many retirement conversations given he’s been Marc Marquez’s nearest title challenger for the past three consecutive years and he remains Ducati’s main hope in the world championship fight. With his situation unlikely to change within the next 12 months Dovizioso could be part of a young man’s game in 2021.

3. Double delight or double trouble for Repsol Honda with the Marquez brothers

With Jorge Lorenzo’s dramatic retirement dominating headlines at the end of last season, his successor Alex Marquez looks like the safe bet for Repsol Honda with a one-year deal (keeping its options open for the 2020 rider market) having overlooked Johann Zarco and other candidates for the spot next to Marc Marquez.

Wayne Rainey has predicted having his younger brother alongside him in MotoGP could act as a hinderance due to the obvious change in dynamic within the HRC camp as the pair will be the friendliest of team-mates and rivals on the grid.

Having gone from the ‘dream team’ of Marquez and Lorenzo, in name rather than in reality given the duos contrasting form, fortunes and riding styles with the RC213V, Repsol Honda will anticipate harmony from a double-dose of Marquez while also ensuring a clear team leader status for the older brother as defending MotoGP world champion.

How this translates across the season will become a fascinating subplot in each of their 2020 campaigns and will no doubt produce both opportunities and challenges for each of them. Whether any of Marc’s rivals can profit from it remains to be seen.

4. The demands of an ever-growing MotoGP calendar

With MotoGP expanding to 20 rounds for 2020, its longest-ever world championship campaign, the action rarely stops between early March and the end of November.

Concerns are growing over the demands being placed on teams and personnel within the sport, having to spend 20 weeks (plus pre-season, in-season and post-season tests) on the road. A greater strain will be felt by all those working in the paddock, while the riders will have a smaller window of recovery over the course of the season.

Any medium to long term injuries will also have a greater impact on a rider’s season as theoretically they could miss more races, giving their rivals a greater chance to notch up points with more races to contest.

With frequent testing also lined up throughout 2020 it will place greater emphasis on each manufacturer’s test team to take the bulk of the workload and provide refined updates for the race riders who will balance energy and fitness levels across the season.

The majority of MotoGP riders have also voiced concerns of the length of the ever-growing seasons and while a cutback in testing is expected to restore some balance finding a happy medium will be a tough ask in 2020.

5. Marquez’s pursuit of ninth world title to match Rossi

Marc Marquez stands on the edge of yet more MotoGP greatness as he targets his seventh premier class world title and ninth world crown overall.

That would put him level with Valentino Rossi, plus Mike Hailwood and Carlo Ubbiali in terms of total world titles, to place him among the true greats of the sport at the age of 27.

For Marquez to also secure his ninth world crown while Rossi is still competing, having seen the record stand at 9-2 in Rossi’s favour when the Spaniard stepped up to the premier class in 2013, it will be a true mark of his dominance that has previously only been matched by the likes of Rossi and Giacomo Agostini.

 

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