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2023 MotoGP season so far

2023 MotoGP season so far

Review of the first half of the 2023 MotoGP season

The summer break seems like the perfect moment to reflect on the first half of the MotoGP season! I've been living and breathing MotoGP for almost 15 years now. It consumes several hours of my day, reading up on the latest news, silly season, and rider interviews. I hardly ever miss a practice session, and I'll cancel any plan in order to watch the races. Or at least, that's what I used to do. For some reason, I haven't been not as engaged as I used to be… 


Photo by Riccardo Farinazzo on Unsplash

What's up with MotoGP in 2023?

For starters, the sprint format has been introduced. That's probably the biggest change to MotoGP since Michelin became the sole tire supplier. It was designed to appeal to a large audience and offer more of that on-the-edge-of-your-seat racing that MotoGP has become famous for.

At first, I was against the idea. I remember the old races vividly, where race strategy and tire management played a key role in the successes of riders like Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa. For quite some time, that era has vanished, making room for one 45-minute long sprint race which throws tire degradation out the window. I still find it strange to see hard option tires and softs battling it out in 35°C after 20 laps…

I think it's fair to say the introduction was as expected. A bunch of riders dive-bombing into every small gap they see (or don't), in order to gain position. It seems that it has become increasingly difficult to overtake in MotoGP. Perhaps due to the same element that hampers F1; aero. As a result, most riders have to make way quick and early, in order to keep the front-end tire from overheating.

As time goes on, I feel that most riders have been able to contain themselves once the lights go out. We're several races in, and we no longer see those first-lap red flags. A good sign that the riders have 'calmed down' in some regard.

And now, I actually quite like the races. They're short, fast, and full of overtakes. Exactly what Dorna had hoped for. Although the toll on several riders is starting to increase, meaning I'm not sure how sustainable this format is. Riders like Oliveira, Bastianini, Mir, and Marquez have all suffered from injuries that have sidelined them. The more aggressive, do-or-die racing seems to add to their woes. I fear that more riders will suffer from injuries and will be riding at less than 100% fitness. And, let's be honest, that just leads to even more crashes and heartbreak.

Change in leading figures

It's almost undeniable that the retirement of Valentino Rossi has left a big empty hole in MotoGP and its popularity. Dorna has done everything it can to keep viewers hooked by implementing sprint races. Recently Espeleta told the media that Dorna will 'help Honda and Yamaha' to become competitive again. All to boost the sport and keep both manufacturers and viewers happy.

And let's zoom in on that Ducati-infested MotoGP field, shall we? Personally, I love it. For decades the Japanese manufacturers have laughed in the faces of the Italians. Now it's the other way around, and Ducati is doing it in an unprecedented fashion. They're not just beating anybody, they're beating everybody. There's nothing else to do for us than to tip our hats and watch as they shake up the field. If anything, it's the first time the Japanese manufacturers have to dig this deep to close a gap. Not to mention KTM and Aprilia that have been able to step up to the challenge.

But even then, with other manufacturers at the top and new championship contenders in the mix… We're still missing those rivalries of the past. It seems only Marc Marquez has been trying to (unsuccessfully) get into fights with other riders. The general mutual respect has risen in the paddock, and riders don't seem to 'hate' each other like Rossi and Biaggi did back in the day.

That's fine. In fact, it shows better sportsmanship than riders of the past. The downside is less publicity and media involvement. Quartararo and Bagnaia had a fun rivalry during the 2022 campaign. But nothing quite on edge as Marquez and Rossi at one point.

Marquez was supposed to take over from Rossi when he left, but injuries and a massive decline in performance have proven it difficult for him to remain at the front. He's sidelined most of the time, and results have been disappointing, to say the least. At this time, the expectations are leaning more towards retirement than an additional future contract with Honda. Personally, I don't see a potential switch to KTM or Ducati in the near future…

Second half of the season will be important

The second half will tell all. It will conclude the very first season of sprint races. We'll learn if riders are capable of fighting through such a season without additional injuries. A (new?) champion will be crowned. Manufacturers like Honda and Yamaha will have time to further develop their motorcycles. And Dorna will have time to come up with a solution for their Ducati plague, to the disappointment of anybody in Bologna (and rightly so…)

Expect Bagnaia to be strong, and Martin and Bezzecchi to challenge him. If Pecco can find his old form, he'll be damn near unstoppable. His current weakness is that he either finishes in the top two or not at all. If he can find a balance to take points on his off-days, there seems little anybody else can do but watch him clinch a well-deserved second MotoGP title.

One thing is for sure; we're still in untested waters. With more points up for grabs than ever, it remains to be seen how the championship standings can shift in a short time, like we see in World Superbikes. But I'm excited to watch them battle it out on track!