On Sunday the 19th of July, MotoGP™ returns. The moment we’ve been waiting for is upon us as we get set for the 22 riders to head into battle at the Gran Premio Red Bull de España.
2020 is a huge year for many reasons. One of those is that it’s a year where we’re going to see at least a handful of riders in a transitional period, whether that be preparing themselves for a step up to a factory seat or a move to a new manufacturer altogether. Expectation will be placed on the shoulders of those riders, while the anticipation for how they’re going to perform in 2020 ahead of a big move will be palpable.
Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) is a rider most people are backing to take the challenge to Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) in the near future – including 2020. We don’t need to big up the Frenchman as we’ve all seen what he did in 2019, but 2020 is his final year on the Petronas Yamaha SRT before Valentino Rossi’s Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP seat awaits. Is it feasible Quartararo joins the factory Yamaha line-up as a World Champion? Absolutely. But even if the 21-year-old just misses out, another year of podiums – and potentially wins – will be the perfect way to transition himself into the factory mould. It's an exciting year ahead for 'El Diablo'.
There are two more riders who have been confirmed to be joining the factory teams of their current manufacturer. Pramac Racing’s Jack Miller looks like he’ll be Ducati Team’s main man in 2021 as the Australian will follow in the footsteps of Troy Bayliss and Casey Stoner to don the famous red, but it’ll be vital for Miller to pick up where he left off in 2019. In similar fashion to what Quartararo will be hoping for, podiums and victory challenges for Miller will be just what the doctor ordered ahead of his big switch. The number 43 will be riding the crest of Bologna wave in 2020 and if things go well in his final year at Pramac, you’ll have to place Miller up there with some of the favourites for a 2021 title challenge.
The third rider in question is Miguel Oliveira, who will move across to Red Bull KTM Factory Racing from Red Bull KTM Tech3 at the end of the year to link up with Brad Binder for the third time in their career. 2020 is Oliveira’s sophomore MotoGP™ campaign and while victories and podiums won’t be the expected target, top 10s will be. Expectations will be on Oliveira in 2021 as he’ll be the rider who has the most experience on the RC-16 in their line-up, so a belting 2020 for the Portuguese rider will give him the confidence of penetrating the top six on an ever-improving KTM. Besides, Oliveira will be wanting to be the main man in the factory setup and he'll need to beat rookie Binder in 2020 to be that man.
And what about riders who will be switching manufacturers? Well, on the topic of KTM, Ducati Team’s Danilo Petrucci will be taking Oliveira’s vacant Tech3 seat in 2021. A Ducati to KTM switch is a pretty mouth-watering prospect for the Italian, who will land at the Austrian factory as their elder statesmen. The pressure is off for Petrucci in 2020 and it will be interesting how he compares to teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Miller – you can bet the number 9 will be wanting to show Ducati what they could be missing before he jumps ship…
Plenty of the ‘silly season’ talk has involved KTM and with their line-up confirmed, it means Pol Espargaro is getting prepped to ride for a third manufacturer in MotoGP™. If the rumours are to be believed, the Spaniard will be making a huge move to line-up next to Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda. Signings don’t get much bigger than that for a rider, and once it’s announced, Espargaro will be the talk of the town. Before that though, both Espargaro and KTM will be hoping their relationship can end with fireworks in 2020. Aforementioned, it’s a huge year for the orange army but it’s also a massive six months for Espargaro, who will want as good a year as possible to propel himself into Repsol Honda, where the toughest – yet most exciting – challenge awaits.
There’s no two ways about it - 2020 is going to be blisteringly epic and there’s so much to talk about when the racing finally gets back underway. This is just a snippet of what we can look forward to. MotoGP™ is back!