Is Bastianini a legitimate threat for the 2022 title?

Four wins to his name and now only 48 points adrift with five rounds to go - is The Beast in the hunt for the World Championship?

It's the one question on everyone's lips heading to Japan: is Enea Bastiaini (Gresini Racing) in the fight to be crowned 2022 MotoGP™ World Champion? The Italian now sits just 48 points adrift of leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) with five rounds remaining thanks to his last lap attack on factory Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia.

There's no doubt the Italian will be thinking that gap could have been a lot less as well if it wasn't for misfortune at both Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring. An incident on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix saw the former Moto2™ World Champion lose a wing on his Ducati GP21, before still managing to fight through to fourth place. Then, he was unable to convert a debut pole position into podium success at the Austrian Grand Prix when a kerb broke his front wheel rim and forced him to retire.

However, second place at Misano and then a confidence-boosting last lap win last time out in Aragon has The Beast breathing down the necks of our three main contenders. Quartararo, Bagnaia and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing) all know that any mistake over the next five weeks will be pounced on by the in-form rider.

But the 24-year-old will have some concerns of his own, mainly the fact that for the next three rounds he'll revert back to a rookie. Having joined the premier class in 2021, he is set to lap Motegi, Buriram and Phillip Island on a MotoGP™ bike for the very first time over the coming weeks. But he'll take great confidence into the penultimate round at the Sepang International Circuit after topping the first test of 2022 at the Malaysian venue back in February.

"48 points for me is too much to close this gap," started Bastiaini when asked about his title prospects. "But I want to continue in this direction to be competitive in the last part of the championship. I want to see race by race what happens. I think I have a good setup for my future and I think it’s positive.

"The championship is important. Now I’m more close to Fabio, to Pecco, to Aleix. But, this for me is not a pressure for the moment because I have to recover a lot of points. What I say, I have to see this race by race what happens. The most important for me is to start on the top like in the last three races and in the first row or second row, because if you are behind, it’s difficult to do a great job during the race. My goal for the moment is the race, not the championship."

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