With just eight days to go before lights out in Qatar, here’s Crash.net’s 2022 MotoGP contenders vs pretenders list, do you agree?

Although current world champion Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia may be considered the 2022 title favourites, we believe several riders have the opportunity to put themselves in the mix regarding a serious title challenge. 

This list will pick out six firm title favourites in our eyes, along with four pretenders who also have the ability to consistently challenge at the front, but are thought of as less likely to do so at present.

To get things underway, there’s no better place to start than with Quartararo.

Contender: MotoGP champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)  

Although pre-season testing has been solid for defending world champion Quartararo, the Yamaha rider has lamented a lack of development from the Japanese manufacturer, especially when it comes to top speed. 

Quartararo has remained one of the slowest on the straights, however, the French rider finished both the Sepang and Mandalika tests inside the top five, once again showing his ability to make up for potential deficiencies of the M1. 

While this is a clear reason why Quartararo remains a title contender, the #1 reason Quartararo is a strong possibility to repeat as world champion is due to his stunning consistency. 

Quartararo finished just five of 19 races outside the top five in 2021, while also being off the front row on only four occasions. 

The 22 year-old is out of contract at the end of 2022, and although the belief is that a deal between he and Yamaha will get done, there’s no guarantee that Quartararo wouldn’t look elsewhere, especially if other teams take significant steps forward, something that has already looked to be the case during testing. 

Of course, Quartararo is likely to face a much tougher obstacle in regards to defending the world title this year, as Ducati, who now have eight bikes on the grid, are just one of his main challengers. 

That leads us onto our next two contenders, who are not teammates but do ride for the same manufacturer. 

Contenders: Francesco Bagnaia (Lenovo Ducati) and Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) 

Starting with Bagnaia, the Italian was sensational to close out last season. 

His run of four wins from six and five poles from six was a record even Quartararo couldn’t match. 

Although Bagnaia failed to set pre-season testing alight, the Ducati rider still looked sharp when it came to race pace in particular. 

In fact, the 2018 Moto2 world champion was one of the riders who focused the least amount of their time on time attacks - something he owned during 2021 - and instead on improving the set-up of his new Desmosedici GP22. 

All things considered, Bagnaia is likely to be Quartararo’s main title challenger, albeit many believe Bagnaia is the outright favourite given the results he amassed at the end of last year. 

The other Ducati rider we believe could be a serious title challenger is Jorge Martin. 

The Pramac rider was brilliant for large parts of 2021, a season that saw the Spaniard claim several pole positions and a dominant race win at the Styrian Grand Prix. 

Throughout his grand prix career, Martin’s second season in a category has always delivered much improved results, which if that were to happen again could easily lead to several race wins and therefore a championship challenger. 

By no means are we saying Martin is a clear-cut favourite, however, the list of names ahead of him is a very short one in our estimation. 

Pretender: Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati)

Continuing the Ducati theme, but not in the best sense is Johann Zarco who is our first pretender. 

As has been demonstrated by his two Moto2 world titles and several impressive premier class performances, Zarco is someone who can without doubt deliver at the top level. 

But with that being said, Zarco’s 2021 season tailed off quite worryingly after starting with four second places in the first eight races. 

The last of those podiums was at Catalunya as he was pipped to victory by Miguel Oliveira. 

And while Zarco managed to eventually claim P5 in the championship, the above-mentioned podium was his last for the year. 

Add to that Zarco is still yet to win a race in MotoGP, therefore placing him as a pretender to start the season is where we see fit. 

Contender: Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda)

Following two seasons that were heavily impacted by injuries, Marc Marquez should return to championship contending form, especially as he and the bike look to be at their best since 2019.

A completely revamped RC213V - has a new engine, chassis, fairing and aero package for 2022, while Marquez finally looks to have put shoulder and eye issues behind him. 

The Respol Honda rider was extremely competitive during both pre-season tests, whether that be qualifying or race trim.

The eight-time world champion was also visibly upbeat by the apparent improvements made. 

Despite being a long way short of full fitness, Marquez was able to win three races in 2021, which was nearly enough to include him on the contender list alone.

While Pol Espargaro has also looked extremely quick - topped the Mandalika test - Honda’s title charge is likely to be led by Marquez who is going in search of title #7 in the premier class, ninth in total. 

Pretender: Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) 

Coming off his second best season in MotoGP, best since joining Aprilia, putting Aleix Espargaro as a pretender was a tough call. 

However, with the Noale-based manufacturer nor Espargaro yet to win a race, putting Espargaro as a contender was too much to ask at this early stage.

Aprilia have seemingly made another step forward during pre-season testing - major gains are believed to have been made regarding the bike’s agility (mid-corner), while ‘the engine is a bit stronger. Aerodynamics as well’

But with all that said, Espargaro is in the same situation as Zarco as he’s yet to prove he can win a grand prix. 

Contender: Jack Miller (Lenovo Ducati) 

The third and final Ducati rider to make our contenders list is a two-time race winner from 2021, Jack Miller. 

The Australian, who suffered a tough start to the 2021 campaign, so much so that rumours of being dropped following the year began to surface. 

However, a double victory at Jerez and Le Mans showed just what Miller was capable of before going on to take another three podiums.

Although Miller wasn’t quite as spectacular as Martin and in particular Bagnaia, the second-year factory rider has turned himself into a perennial podium challenger. 

Therefore if Miller can find a resolution to tyre degradation issues he suffered from at times last year, then a title charge is not out of the question. 

Pretenders Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM factory Racing) 

The first teammates to make an appearance on this list, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira are two riders who without doubt have the ability to run at the front every weekend. 

Both men have won races during the last two seasons, while KTM has at times been one of the better bikes on the grid. 

But as is the case for many riders/teams at this level, consistency is the biggest denominator between success and failure. 

Great race pace bagged Binder some impressive results throughout 2021, but too often the South African was having to fight back from a Q1 elimination. 

If any KTM rider is going to challenge for regular race wins, Binder might have the best chance to do so due to his impressive pace and race craft, however, pre-season testing once again highlighted the team’s positive and negative points to a much larger degree than others.

In Oliveira’s case, the Portuguese rider claimed just four top ten results for the entire year, all of which came during consecutive rounds. 

For these reasons, Binder and Oliveira start as pretenders, albeit the potential is certainly there. 

Contender: Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar)

The final rider on our list is Suzuki’s Joan Mir. 

World champion in 2020, Mir had a somewhat disappointing season in 2021 after finishing winless. 

Mir still managed to bring his GSX-RR home for P3 in the championship after what seemed like a campaign where Suzuki fell behind its competitors from a development standpoint. 

But much to the delight of Mir, fears of that happening again already look to be resolved as he and Alex Rins were two of the more impressive riders during testing, which is why Mir deserves and should be included on this list. 

A world champion in both the premier class and Moto3, Mir should be back to winning ways during 2022 provided the Japanese manufacturer, who will be boosted by the new addition of Team Manager, Livio Suppo, can continue its upward trend.