MotoGP: Riders Expecting “Closest Ever” World Championship – Roadracing World Magazine

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“It’s getting closer and closer”: riders ready for lights out at Lusail

The 2022 season is about to begin, with plenty to talk about in the pre-event Press Conference

Thursday, 03 March 2022

The pre-event Press Conference for the Grand Prix of Qatar got the weekend fully underway, with reigning Champion Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) joined by 2021 runner up Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), 2020 Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar), eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing) to talk about the weekend and the season ahead.

 

MotoGP riders (from left) Francesco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Fabio Quartararo, Brad Binder, Joan Mir, and Maverick Vinales at the pre-event press conference in Qatar. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

QUOTES

How do you feel about the challenge ahead and what’s your assessment of Yamaha’s progress over the winter? 

Fabio Quartararo: “To be honest it’s great to be back and when the season is over, the weeks are going quickly, but when you’re close to riding in Qatar, the last week was long and it’s great to be here. I think pre-season was good, we expected a bit more top speed. It is what it is, we need to give 100% in any case. I’m ready and looking forward to starting tomorrow.”

 

2021 MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo. Photo courtesy Dorna.
2021 MotoGP World Champion Fabio Quartararo. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Who have you identified as your big rivals in 2022? 

FQ20: “It’s so difficult. Last year you could say five or six riders but now I could say anyone. Of course the guys that are here today, but it’s difficult to say a few. We will need to wait a little bit more to see the clear opponents.”

Everyone is saying it’s the toughest, closest championship in history – what lies ahead?

FQ20: “Well it will make life more difficult but for the show and everyone it will be nice to not have that big difference. I remember maybe 10 years ago we had a few riders and then the rest, but now basically everything is so tight and the level of riders is really high. Now I think it’s the closest ever and it will be fun.”

Can the 2022 bike enable you to build on that momentum and fight for wins from the start?

Francesco Bagnaia: “I think we worked well in the pre-season. It’s difficult to understand the level of bikes at these tests because anyone did what they want about how to work. I think the potential of our bike is high and we chose the best package during the tests. I’m quite confident like the end of the last season and I think we can start from there.

 

Francesco Bagnaia. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Francesco Bagnaia. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

How important was it to get your contract signed with Ducati before the start of the season?

FB63: “I think we chose together, four years ago, I’m very happy to be with them for two more years. If we had the possibility, I would like to remain with Ducati for all of my career. For sure, starting with two years more in the contract means you are more relaxed, you can focus on just giving the best. I prefer this situation.”

Everyone is saying it’s the toughest, closest championship in history – what lies ahead?

FB63: “It’s something good for the show, but I think years ago, the way of working was different. Now you have to do the time attack. I was feeling years ago, I was doing the time attack my first year in MotoGP and with the lap time I did in 2020 I was fifth, and this year like 17th; a big difference. I think it’s the way to work in the test.”

How confident are you that you’re going to be one of the main championship contenders again?

Joan Mir: “Yes I’m happy about how everything is going. I felt an improvement on the bike and it looks like we have a little more top speed and that’s always really important. The winter was good, I trained well and got some rest as well to have the batteries fully charged for the first races. So let’s see what we can do and yeah, I want to start.”

 

 

Joan Mir (right). Photo courtesy Dorna.
Joan Mir (right). Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

What do you think about Livio’s arrival and what can he bring to the project moving forward?

JM36: “It’s a step we were waiting for for a long time. Before some people weren’t doing their jobs and now everyone knows what they have to do. It’s a person who will give something on the team and will help a lot, from what I know he’s a really clear person and for sure he’s what we need.”

Everyone is saying it’s the toughest, closest championship in history – what lies ahead?

JM36: “Yeah I think that for the show it will be really good. During the test on the last day it looked like a qualifying but it means that there’s a lot of competitiveness between the manufacturers and riders and everything, for the show it’s amazing. Like Fabio said it makes our lives a bit more difficult, but we are here for this. Better like this, we’ll enjoy more from inside and the people from outside, and yeah, we will enjoy.”

Do you think you’re in a position to be fighting for the win here on Sunday? 

Marc Marquez: “Yeah of course I’m happy to be here. It’s already better than last year and that’s important. After the winter it wasn’t clear but it was important to test in Malaysia and Mandalika, after Mandalika I felt a step with my physical condition and that’s important. Let’s see how to, the way to start the first race, for 2022 I want to fight all these guys for the title of course, maybe for the Qatar GP I’m not ready, during the weekend we will understand where we are.

 

Marc Marquez (93). Photo courtesy Dorna.
Marc Marquez (93). Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Are you close to finding the sweet spot, what are you still looking for to get the best out of this package? 

MM93: “They did a big step on the bike. Honestly it feels like I changed the brand because it’s a completely different bike. Since I arrived in Honda there was always improvement but the character of the bike was always similar, but now it’s a big change. In Malaysia I struggled a bit but I feel the potential because in one lap the lap time was coming, but in Mandalika I was bringing the bike to my riding style already and I felt a step. During the first races we will find small things, but the base is nice, it’s good, and yeah let’s see in qualifying and race conditions where we are.”

Everyone is saying it’s the toughest, closest championship in history – what lies ahead?

MM93: “Of course as you say in the test it was very close but it’s not the first year that in the test it was very close. Let’s see during the first four or five races we will understand who the top guys are. Anyway it will be interesting to have equal bikes, equal level between the riders and this makes everything more interesting.”

How confident are you that the winter changes will allow you to be more at the front in 2022? 

Brad Binder: “Starting off in Sepang, it was really tough for us. It was a really difficult day and half. As soon as we got to Mandalika we made a good step I’d say. We had some small new parts to try and a new base for the season. Honestly, it’s a little bit better, it makes our job easier, and the bikes easier to ride. Qatar is a track that has been tough in the past, I think back to last year it was one of the hardest races of the year but I’m confident our package will be much better here and we can do a good job this weekend.”

 

Brad Binder. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Brad Binder. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

A huge weekend for the Binder family, how excited are you to line up alongside brother Darryn on Sunday? A dream come true?

BB33: “As a family it’s amazing as it’s the goal we’ve all worked towards. To line up with my brother on Sunday, it’s going to be insane and its ticking one of the boxes for the family so let’s see how we’ll get on.”

Everyone is saying it’s the toughest, closest championship in history – what lies ahead?

BB33: “It’s gonna be an insane year. Times are as close as ever and things are super competitive. I expect a little bit of Moto3 style racing on Sunday, it’s going to be super cool to watch so let’s see how it pans out.”

What’s the realistic goal for Sunday?

Maverick Viñales: “I think for us, to be realistic we need to wait a little and improve. Like I said at the first test, we need a few tenths to fight for the top positions. We are doing a good job; we are taking the necessary steps. Step by step, building the confidence, still I need to get used to the bike, it’s a very different bike, the character of the engine is completely different, it’s not easy, you need to take time. However, I feel good. I feel really good and Qatar is a special track.”

 

Maverick Vinales. Photo courtesy Dorna.
Maverick Vinales. Photo courtesy Dorna.

 

Do you think Aprilia are ready to win races and take the next step? 

MV12: “I think we have to be calm. To win a race in MotoGP you need to put a lot of points together and I don’t think we are ready just yet. But sometimes MotoGP is crazy, and you can have a good night and do it. As I said, we need to keep working to improve some points for the bike and also my riding style. Whatever the result is in Qatar, we’re going to improve step-by-step.”

Everyone is saying it’s the toughest, closest championship in history – what lies ahead?

MV12: “Honestly, it’s always nice. The competition is getting closer and closer. One second covers almost all the grid. This is fantastic, the bikes are more or less equal and the competition is real.”

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