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A quintet of fast rookies were welcomed to the premier class at the start of 2022 in what is, arguably, the most competitive era we’ve ever seen in MotoGP™. It couldn’t be much tougher being a rookie in this day and age, and as we’ve now surpassed the halfway stage of the season, we take a brief look at how each of them is getting on.
Bezzecchi delivers a first VR46 podium for "idol" Rossi
Bezzecchi has been the rookie sensation in 2022. No one can argue that. The Ducati GP21 the Italian has adopted is Francesco Bagnaia’s (Ducati Lenovo Team) multiple race-winning machine from last season, and as we know, the Ducati GP21 is a very, very good bike. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) has shown this year that it’s more than capable of winning against the 2022 thoroughbreds.
But Bezzecchi has not only done a decent job on the Ducati so far – he’s been outstanding, especially in the European leg of the campaign. The Argentina GP was the number 72’s first top 10 but the front row at Mugello, followed by him leading the race and eventually finishing P5, was a real eye-opener for everyone. A rookie, on a track as challenging as Mugello, battling for the podium? It was a display of pure class.
More points came in Germany with a P11, before the Dutch TT rolled around. After only one fully dry session at The Cathedral of Speed, Bezzecchi bagged P5 in qualifying – his third top six Saturday result of the season. A dream maiden MotoGP™ podium then followed as Bezzecchi produced a flawless display, finishing less than half a second away from close friend and race winner Pecco. Will that podium tally rise before the end of 2022? A tough ask, but you wouldn’t be surprised.
Like Bezzecchi, Di Giannantonio is at the controls of a Ducati GP21 alongside Bastianini in the Gresini Racing ranks. Diggia’s season has been solid, and his contract confirmation to remain in MotoGP™ with Gresini in 2023 is richly deserved.
The stunning pole position at his home race in Italy is the current highlight for the 23-year-old, while his P8 at the German GP was quietly one of the rides of the day. Di Giannantonio finished less than half a second away from seventh place Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and was just shy of six seconds ahead of teammate Bastianini at the Sachsenring. He was also by far the best rookie in Germany too.
The Italian has had four points-scoring rides to date in 2022 and we’ve seen glimpses of the potential Diggia possesses. The Rookie of the Year crown looks like it’s going to be a difficult task with Bezzecchi’s form, but Di Giannantonio is the latter’s closest rival heading into the post-summer leg.
Having made the gigantic leap from Moto3™ to MotoGP™, Binder has acquitted himself well against the world’s best. The South African has talent in abundance and that was displayed heavily during a rain-soaked Indonesian GP.
"Quite the experience!" - D. Binder earns ride of the day
Binder’s ride from 23rd to 10th in the wet conditions, in what was only his second race on a MotoGP™ bike, was unbelievable. He was less than a second away from older brother Brad, ninth-placed Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) and finished ahead of the likes of Bastianini, Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team), Pecco and Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing).
12th place at the Catalan GP has been Binder’s other points-scoring ride, while the Italian GP was also a notable performance. 16th is generally nothing to shout home about, but finishing just 20 seconds off the win, under two seconds from Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team) and beating Yamaha stablemate Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) was a job well done. Binder had the toughest task of all the rookies in 2022, and so far, he’s been quietly impressive.
It’s fair to say the reigning Moto2™ World Champion has endured a difficult season. Likewise to Tech3 KTM Factory Racing teammate Raul Fernandez. KTM’s RC16 hasn’t been an easy bike to get along with in 2022, hence why Gardner has only managed to notch up nine points heading into the summer break.
Gardner’s first points came in Qatar with a P15, then a P14 finish was achieved in Portugal where he was the fastest rookie by six seconds. The best result of the season has been a P12 in Barcelona, and since the Official Test on Monday following the Catalan GP, Gardner has felt more comfortable on the KTM. The Australian will be hoping the second half of the season will bring a maiden top 10 finish in the premier class, as KTM continue to search for improvements.
On the other side of the Tech3 box, it’s a similar story to that of Gardner. Fernandez created history in Moto2™ last year as a rookie, but the Spanish star’s rookie MotoGP™ campaign has been tricky.
A 15th place at the Catalan GP was Fernandez’s first point in the class, and he followed that up with a very solid P12 at the German GP. An arm pump issue forced Fernandez to retire from the Dutch TT before the summer, adding to his hand injury troubles earlier on in the season after a crash in Q1 in Portimao saw him miss the Portuguese and Spanish GPs. A fully fit Fernandez will be aiming to show more of the stellar potential that saw him rise to stardom in 2021 in the latter half of 2022.
Bezzecchi leads the Rookie of the Year race by 37 points with nine races left to play in 2022. Can he be caught? It’s an uphill task, especially given the Italian’s current form.