The five newcomers included the top three in the Moto2 standings - Remy Gardner, Raul Fernandez and Marco Bezzecchi - plus triple grand prix winner Fabio di Giannantonio and Moto3 race winner Darryn Binder.

While all five struggled to score consistently in the opening rounds, VR46 Ducati’s Bezzecchi moved straight to the top of the rookie standings when he opened his account with ninth place in Argentina (round 3).

The young Italian didn’t look back, eventually finishing the year with 111 points, over four times more than the next closest di Giannantonio (also riding a GP21 Ducati, at Gresini).

In a season that saw no other rookie finish inside the top seven, Bezzecchi climbed the podium at Assen, added a pair of fourth places at Phillip Island and Sepang, plus a pole position at Buriram.

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"Something happened in Assen; from that moment I started pushing even harder to be able to experience other days like that," Bezzecchi said.

“If I think about it, what a rookie season in MotoGP! A podium, a pole, many times in the top 10. Not bad for a category that I've dreamed of since I was a child and that I used to watch on TV.

“The Rookie of the Year title was a target from the start, but without too much pressure. I really wanted it because it was my last chance after I had missed it in Moto3 and Moto2.”

The 24-year-old added: "I didn't expect to win the rookie title with two races to go. I had the first chance in Thailand. It was difficult, but after the pole I believed in it. Unfortunately in the race we collected much less than we expected, the weather surprised us.

“Once in Australia, however, the atmosphere was much more relaxed. Phillip Island is a track that I've always liked, I wanted to do a great race, without thinking too much, and we achieved our goal on the Sunday."

Bezzecchi emphasized that he was not the only ‘rookie’ in the VR46 team’s debut year as a full premier-class entry.

"We are a rookie team in every sense: many of the guys come from Moto2, others, like Matteo (Flamigni, crew chief), held a different role,” he said. “The boys impressed me because they grew up in a very short time, with an incredible speed. Luca's team has also done something unique, the whole crew is fantastic.”

'The best grid ever!'

The Rimini-born rider was eventually classified 14th overall in the world championship, against what he believes was an ‘unprecedented’ level of opposition.

“An unprecedented 2022: the level of the bike and rider packages was very high,” he said. “All the bikes are practically factory, the differences between the official and independent are minimal, everyone can be competitive. The best grid ever!”

Bezzecchi will continue on a year-old bike, moving from the GP21 to world championship winning GP22 next season, when MotoGP will have just a single rookie, Augusto Fernandez (Tech3 GASGAS).