Predictions: MotoGP 2023 champion, biggest bust-up, key story, shock race winner

Key predictions as the MotoGP 2023 season gets set to begin from's MotoGP editor Peter McLaren and journalist Robert Jones.
Franco Morbidelli, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March
Franco Morbidelli, Portimao MotoGP test, 12 March

How will Marc Marquez fare?

Peter McLaren: You can count on Marc Marquez to pull off his usual magic at places like COTA and Sachsenring, so I’d be surprised if he doesn’t get a few wins. Barring further injuries, I’d certainly expect his best MotoGP season since 2019.

But the pressure is on Honda because, going off winter testing, the RCV doesn’t look like a regular victory contender against the likes of Ducati, Aprilia and Fabio Quartararo’s Yamaha. So a Marquez title challenge could depend more on mistakes by others.

Robert Jones: I believe he'll finish top five in the world championship, but won't be a title contender as Honda's struggles will prove too much to overcome, even for a rider who is arguably the greatest of all time. I do believe we'll see him win some races, three to be exact, which will take place at COTA, Sachsenring and the inaugural Grand Prix of Kazakhstan.  

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A shock race winner?

Peter McLaren: With 42 races this year, half of them the new Sprints, there’s plenty of opportunities for an upset. How about:

  • Luca Marini or Alex Marquez to break out of the shadow of their famous brothers and stand on the top step.
  • A first Aprilia win for the satellite RNF team with Miguel Oliveira or Raul Fernandez.
  • Jack Miller to master some dodgy weather for a KTM victory. If he does it on the Sunday he’ll also become the first person to win with three different MotoGP-era manufacturers (unless Maverick Vinales gets there first).
  • Alex Rins repeating last year’s late-season heroics at Suzuki to snatch LCR Honda’s first victory since Cal Crutchlow.

Robert Jones: My pick here is for Alex Marquez to do what he should have done during his rookie season at Repsol Honda, which is win one race for the Gresini Ducati team. 


Which teammates will fall out?

Peter McLaren: What about housemates? Alex Marquez joked that Marc might lock him out after he beat him at the Sepang test and Alex looks more than capable of doing the same in some races this year.

Joking aside, given Marc’s comments in the ‘All In’ series about how he has “never been a nice team-mate”, it’ll be interesting to see how Joan Mir gets on at Repsol Honda. Likewise, how will Marquez react to having a younger team-mate for the first time?

Team-mates normally fall out when they are fighting head-to-head for the same thing, whether it’s a seat for the following year, race wins or a world championship.

A team-mate title duel hasn’t happened since Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo at Yamaha in 2015. Ducati certainly looks capable of putting both riders in world championship contention this season, but it all seems relaxed between Francesco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini for now.

Robert Jones: As they start to become more and more competitive, so much so that they fight for a couple of race wins whilst in direct competition on-track, I'm going for the factory KTM duo of Brad Binder and Jack Miller.

A partnership that has great potential to move KTM closer to Ducati could also see them struggle to work cohesively as the battle for supremacy at KTM takes priority. 

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The key storyline to keep an eye on

Peter McLaren: The impact of the new ‘real time’ tyre pressure rules, with offending riders facing the cancellation of their flying laps in practice and qualifying, or disqualification from a race.

The exact penalty tolerance (for example 50% of a race distance) will only be agreed with the manufacturers after round 3. But in general, riders are likely to start with higher pressures than last season to steer clear of any penalties – but that also increases the risk of handling problems if they get stuck behind another rider during a race.

Until the planned introduction of penalties at round 4, teams are supposed to continue respecting the minimum pressures whilst gathering real-world data to remain 100 percent compliant in future.

But it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that some teams might decide to run on the low side in the opening three rounds, to try and gain an advantage before any penalties kick in.

Robert Jones: Given their on-track battles, but also their seemingly fragile relationship off-track, the tandem of Francesco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini has the potential to provide fireworks not seen since Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were teammates.

Both riders won't want to give an inch as they start the year as favourites for the title given their performances in 2022, and the machinery available to them. 


Predict the major seat reshuffle ahead of 2024?

Peter McLaren: The only factory seat known to be available for 2024 is alongside Fabio Quartararo at Yamaha, with Franco Morbidelli’s contract expiring. If Morbidelli doesn’t get his mojo back on the M1 there would be little point in either party continuing the deal.

Everyone knows the other rumoured names - Toprak Razgatlioglu, Jorge Martin etc. Much will depend on how competitive Morbidelli and the new M1 are, but Razgatlioglu has his hands full in WorldSBK at the moment, while Martin already has access to the best bike on the grid, the Ducati GP23, at Pramac.

If we play the ‘what if’ game, maybe VR46 (linked with running Yamahas in future) could offer Marco Bezzecchi or Luca Marini to the factory team in a swap with fellow Academy rider Morbidelli? It’s not something I’ve even heard rumoured, but stranger things have happened. Bezzecchi and Marini have made their factory ambitions clear while VR46 would surely love to have Morbidelli, who was the Academy’s first world champion (Moto2 in 2017).

Robert Jones: For me there is only one place to start which is the second factory Yamaha seat alongside Fabio Quartararo. Franco Morbidelli is in great danger of losing his status as a factory rider and with stars in both WorldSBK (Toprak Razgatlioglu) and MotoGP (Jorge Martin) being potential upgrades. The Italian is facing the type of pressure that no other rider on the grid faces this year. 

My prediction for 2024 is that the Monster Energy Yamaha team lines up with Fabio Quartararo and Jorge Martin as its riders. 

Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 11 March
Francesco Bagnaia, Portimao MotoGP test, 11 March

Who will be the 2023 champion?

Peter McLaren: It’s hard to look beyond Francesco Bagnaia at this stage. The Italian would have wrapped up last year’s title several rounds early without the five DNFs and, like his Ducati, looks stronger than ever coming into 2023.

That said, after being hunted down for much of the last two seasons, Quartararo could revel in turning the tables and trying to chase down Bagnaia if the more-powerful M1 improves as the year goes on.

Robert Jones: While competition will be stiff, particularly from his teammate, I'm leaning towards Bagnaia becoming a back-to-back MotoGP champion. Bastianini will make a good run at the title, as will Quartararo, however, Bagnaia will prove to be too good as he cuts out the early season mistakes that made him an unlikely winner at one stage in 2022. 

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