Based on pre-season testing Gerloff is without doubt a favourite, if not the outright leading candidate to take home the award for a second consecutive season. 

It’s an award that somewhat surprisingly went the Texan-born rider’s way in 2021, as Gerloff struggled for much of the season. 

The GRT Yamaha rider claimed seventh in the championship and with it finished 18 points ahead of rookie Axel Bassani, however, things could have been much different had Bassani finished the final race of the season. 

The Motocorsa Ducati rider, who was battling for a podium with Jonathan Rea, Toprak Razgatlioglu, Scott Redding and Michael Van Der Mark, was running as high as P2 which would have been enough to win the award had he finished in that spot.

But with conditions proving treacherous around the newly-built Mandalika circuit, in fact, very similar to the Indonesian MotoGP two weeks ago at the same venue, Bassani crashed after contact with Van Der Mark. 

Bassani had initially run onto the white line - a cardinal sin when racing in the wet - before Van Der Mark unintentionally clipped Bassani’s fairing and thus making the Italian fall. 

When looking at potential challenges for the award in 2022, Gerloff’s main challenge is once again expected to come from Bassani as the two riders are not only seen as potential top five runners, but also podium challengers. 

Highly motivated following his down year, Gerloff has stated he has a 'bunch of goals' for the new season.

Gerloff told "I’m fired up and I’m ready to go. I know that we have all the pieces that we need to put everything together and have a great season with the team and everything, the bike. 

"Everything’s been clicking and everything’s been going well. I changed what I needed to change in my life and I’m feeling good. 

"So yeah, we’ll take the punches as they come! I have a bunch of goals but honestly, I just want to get to the first race, and I want to get started; once we figure out where we stand, then I’ll have more defined goals. 

"Let’s just get through testing and get to the best place we can with the set-up and everything, get into the races and go from there."

While Bassani 'should' finish as the top independent Ducati rider, the 22 year-old won’t have things all his own way as GoEleven rider Philipp Oettl has been mightily impressive during testing. 

The 2022 rookie is yet to win a race since joining the WorldSBK paddock, however, the German was by far the best Kawasaki rider in WorldSSP last year, a package that was considerably lacking in performance compared to Yamaha. 

Still, Oettl was a continuous podium threat throughout, and should Gerloff and/or Bassani relent at any stage, then Oettl is likely to make them pay. 

Can Loris Baz and BMW become part of the fight? 

In just five races last season - all took place aboard Ducati machinery - Loris Baz showed just why he could easily challenge the likes of Gerloff, Bassani and Oettl. 

But unlike those three riders, Baz does not seem to have the necessary tools at his disposal. 

BMW has so far looked a step behind Honda, especially at the hands of factory riders Iker Lecuona and Xavi Vierge.

While Ducati, Yamaha and Kawasaki remain the benchmark, Honda has seemingly made the biggest improvement of any manufacturer, a statement that can’t be said about BMW at present. 

Baz certainly has the talent, but predicting the former MotoGP rider to be in the mix on a consistent basis is something we’re finding tough to do at this stage. 

With that said, Baz is not worried as it stands by the lack of performance, instead saying podium finishes are his main aim. 

Baz added: "I can’t start the season without thinking about the podium, so of course that is the goal. To try and put the M 1000 RR on the podium this year with the team. 

"We will see when this can happen, but I am sure that if we make a good job and continue working in the same way as we did until now, then we will have the opportunity to fight for the podium this season."