Should Marc Marquez win the 2022 MotoGP world championship which would be his seventh, then the Repsol Honda rider will have achieved a feat only Valentino Rossi and Giacomo Agostini have managed to complete.
Agostini is an eight-time premier class world champion, while Rossi’s seven premier class titles came in the form of the 2001 500cc championship and six between 2002 and 2009 when Grand Prix racing officially became MotoGP.
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Had Marquez not suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in 2020, an injury that very nearly threatened his career, then there’s an argument to be made that the Spaniard would have won the last two titles.
Should that have happened then Marquez could have been challenging for a ninth premier class title in just ten MotoGP seasons.
However, that’s not the case as Marquez has instead suffered the two most difficult seasons of his career.
While Marquez appears to be fully fit following his shoulder and diplopia (double vision) problems, several factors could potentially stop the Honda man from winning the 2022 title.
Here are the three biggest challenges Crash.net believes stand between Marquez and a ninth world championship (seventh in MotoGP).
3. Overcoming lack of front end feeling with new-look RC213V
The first challenge on our list concerns Marquez and his adaptation to Honda’s revolutionised RC213V.
While it’s been a solid start for the Spaniard aboard a machine that is nicer and less aggressive to ride according to all four Honda riders, Marquez has so far struggled to find the front end feeling he likes.
Through pre-season testing and the opening round in Lusail, the 2022 Honda is giving Marquez less feel with the front tyre, even though it’s providing him a more stable package than previous Honda bikes.
Team-mate Pol Espargaro has so far seemed to gel better with Honda’s new bike due to his ability to steer with the rear brake, an area Marquez has acknowledged he struggles more with; ‘I can’t use the rear brake like Pol’.
Marquez was comfortably outperformed by Espargaro in Qatar, which leads us to think a lot more is yet to come from the Spanish rider.
2. Most competitive MotoGP field ever/Ducati manpower?
It goes without saying that the 2022 season could be the most competitive in MotoGP history on two fronts, which would therefore make Marquez’ chances of winning less likely than previous seasons.
More than half the 24-rider grid has won a MotoGP race which is the most ever for a single season, while pre-season testing, along with results in 2021 suggest every manufacturer has an above-average chance of winning a race.
The Qatar MotoGP saw two riders who had never won a MotoGP race finish on the podium, while just two of the eight race winners from 2021 were inside the top five (Brad Binder and Marquez).
Along with competition from the likes of current world champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), Joan Mir and Alex Rins (Suzuki) who showed the best race pace in testing and free practice, Binder who finished P2 (KTM), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) and his team-mate Pol who finished ahead of Marquez with third, the six-time MotoGP champion is likely to face the same problem that every non Ducati rider will face.
While it’s unlikely that rookies Marco Bezzecchi and Fabio Di Giannantonio will challenge for wins in 2022, albeit not impossible, Marquez will most likely be battling against four, possibly five out of an eight-rider-strong Ducati line-up for much of the season.
Although Ducati are yet to unlock its full potential with the new Desmosedici GP22 engine, it shouldn’t be long before Francesco Bagnaia, Jack Miller and Jorge Martin demonstrate the type of performances that saw them clinch a 1-2-3 in Valencia (final race of 2021), while Bagnaia also won four of the last six races.
Despite a DNF in Qatar, Bagnaia remains Ducati’s biggest threat for the title as it stands, therefore the biggest thorn in Marquez’ side, although recent first-time winner Enea Bastianini could also be a factor on his GP21 machine.
Wherever you look there are potential race winners and possible championship contenders, which is vastly different to the days when Marquez competed on a grid where only three or four riders had realistic chances of winning.
1. Avoiding crashes and possible injuries
When analysing Marquez’ chances of winning the 2022 title, crashes and injuries have to be at the forefront of this list as it’s two areas that have plagued him of late.
While Marquez has never been shy in finding the limit - often resulting in him going beyond the limit to do so - crashes have taken a considerable toll on a rider who will without doubt go down as one of the greatest.
For many years Marquez has been towards the top when it comes to riders with the most falls in a single season.
And while it didn’t stop him from winning titles during six of his first seven MotoGP seasons, the last two have been very different stories.
Although he suffered a crash during the Qatar MotoGP weekend, Marquez appeared much more considered and less on the limit compared to what we’ve seen on previous versions of the RC213V.
Without the pace to fight for the podium, Marquez chose not to go beyond what he and the bike were capable of, something that’s not always been apparent in his riding.
If the Repsol Honda rider is to not only challenge, but win the 2022 title, then eliminating unnecessary crashes and potential injuries will be key.