What Suzuki’s shock MotoGP exit means for the 2023 rider market
With the explosive news that Suzuki will be leaving the MotoGP paddock at the end of the 2022 season set to arrive imminently, it has blown up the rider market for next season.
The move takes two extremely competitive machines off the table and puts both 2020 champion Joan Mir and 2022 leader Alex Rins in the open market just when things seemed to be calming down somewhat. It is a decision that will have repercussions not only for them but also for many others.
Just last week, new Suzuki team boss Livio Suppo told The Race that his plans for the future were to retain the services of his two current riders – a decision he has been stripped of. by the company’s Japanese management. and his decision to leave the show just two years after winning a title with Mir.
With the strength of his title success in 2022, Mir’s future is perhaps the easiest to speculate at this point. It’s no secret that he and Fabio Quartararo were among Honda’s targets to potentially replace Pol Espargaro should he continue to struggle – and with that and with Mir now a free agent, it doesn’t take much to figure out that. there will be serious talks going on between his manager Paco Sanchez and Honda boss Alberto Puig tonight.
If that didn’t happen, you’d imagine his first preference would be to climb aboard a Ducati, another machine that seems most likely to suit his hard-braking style. In theory, Ducati sold out with Jorge Martin who was previously set to succeed Jack Miller alongside the already signed Pecco Bagnaia.
But with Martin currently suffering from terrible form, collapsing in four of the first six races of 2022, and with Mir on edge (and therefore possibly open to a considerably lower financial offer), then it wouldn’t be a complete surprise if Ducati made a surprise offer for the former champion.
There may also be an option for him at KTM, where Brad Binder is already signed up until the end of 2024, but where Miguel Oliveira (ironically it looks like he’s recently been in talks with Suzuki himself) hasn’t reached a deal yet – something he’s probably in a rush to address right now.
On the other side of the garage, Rins is likely to be looking for something closer to the styling of the inline-four engine that currently seems to best suit his smoother, more old-fashioned driving style. This means Yamaha, where in theory there are two open seats in the WithU satellite team.
One of them, currently staffed by Andrea Dovizioso, is on 2022 factory machines and (supported directly by Yamaha) supposed to be paid fairly competitively, at least compared to Rins’ Suzuki salary. The Italian has struggled this year, but that’s partly because he took a year off the sport and tried to readapt after eight years on Ducati’s V4 engine, and the transition to Rins would probably be easier.
There may also be an option for full factory status as Franco Morbidelli continues to underperform alongside Fabio Quartararo.
Registered until the end of 2023 in the Japanese factory, there could nevertheless be an option in his contract which would allow him to return to the satellite team – on paper a demotion, but in reality a chance to work again with the boss. veteran team. Ramon Forcada, who took him to second place ahead of Mir in the 2020 Riders Championship.
If Rins couldn’t find a room at Yamaha, another option for him (or potentially even Mir) could also be Aprilia. Maverick Vinales really couldn’t have picked a worse time to speculate he wants to move elsewhere, as he did just days ago – but now that the idea is here, it means you can’t not blame the Italian brand for having reached at least temporarily to Rins and Mir.
The only thing that could throw a spanner in the works is two unknown factors that need to be considered. First of all, reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo still hasn’t signed an extension with his current Monster Energy Yamaha team. Considered by the team to be a likely factor given team boss Lin Jarvis’ quotes during this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, it was previously predicted to be the defining move of the entire season.
And if time is running out even more today than it was yesterday, there may still be key decisions awaiting the Frenchman’s choice. This is going to leave a lot of people in a rather stressful situation, however, because of the other factor: the fact that we don’t yet know the full line-up next year.
Will the departing Suzuki be replaced by a satellite team? It’s certainly an option, but it’s an option that’s going to require frantic negotiations not only from the teams and the other factories, but also from the promoters of the Dorna series, who are going to be busy solving a totally unexpected problem that will have arisen like a tsunami.
However, with Suzuki’s riders both among the highest rated on the grid and enjoying a strong start to 2022, the most nervous people right now won’t be them: it will be the rivals who may well be moved by the chain reaction caused by today’s leaked news.
One of those riders is likely current Repsol Honda racer Pol Espargaro, who until recently has probably been able to breathe a bit freely as Mir seemed increasingly keen to stay at Suzuki. If he were to be moved, it is unclear where would be available for him.
One chance could be that the 2022 podium runner-up retires to the LCR Honda team – which would then in turn move current rider Alex Marquez and Lenovo Ducati refugee Jack Miller, who is in talks with his former team.
Similarly, if one of the Suzuki duos ended up at Aprilia, it’s unclear what options would be open to Maverick Vinales, who is slowly adapting to RS-GP and who burned many bridges last year thanks to its rather high profile. departure from the Yamaha factory team.
You imagine Oliveira, a 2022 race winner already in Indonesia, would find it easier to find a satellite ride if he were kicked out of KTM, but even that might not be a sure thing as the reshuffle continues.
There will also be repercussions further down the Grand Prix pecking order with two fewer places on next year’s grid as things stand. That’s potentially two fewer chances for a Moto2 rider to have a chance, as riders already in the premier class circulate in what is likely to now be a somewhat more conservative rider market.
Of course, with Dorna pushing to try to find a replacement for Suzuki as soon as possible, it also might not be the smartest decision to rush to sign a new deal straight away in case something comes up. later – just like how Alex Marquez arrived at Repsol Honda in 2020 to replace Jorge Lorenzo following his shock retirement.
However, waiting for a deal with a team that doesn’t yet exist is a long-term option. It’s the one that paid off for Dovizioso in 2022 – but it’s more likely to be the last minute back-up plan for an exile from the current grid before they move to World Superbikes at this stage.