At the end of the year, SPEEDWEEK.com columnist Michael Scott looks back on the lessons of the 2021 season and explains what the Motorcycle World Championship should learn from them for 2022.
In a moment a new year will wipe the old one away. However, you should be careful what you leave behind. We should better take with us the lessons from the 73rd year, in which “I can do faster than you” at the GP level was played.
I can already hear the screams, what is that supposed to be?
Well, some things became pretty clear in a 2021 season that showed the fame is passed around among the contenders as often as it is sometimes claimed by just one for years.
It was Yamaha’s turn to take the MotoGP title. Or at least a Yamaha rider. If you consider that the team and constructors’ titles went to Ducati, then one of the Red Quartararo could have stopped if they hadn’t stolen points from each other. A lesson that is ignored in Borgo Panigale, with the Ducati Armada being increased to eight bikes in 2022.
Honda’s hands have been tied for two years, firstly because of the lack of Marc Márquez, secondly because of the engine development frozen for 2021. Will they fight back? Yes. It can be assumed that the massive resources of HRC were well bundled during this time. And if you consider the statements made by Márquez junior after the Jerez test (“a totally different concept”) and hopefully Márquez senior will find their way back to old strengths, betting against Honda is very risky.
History has taught us.
Another well-known lesson: nothing lasts forever.
See the delayed end of the longest top-level career on two, three or four wheels. Valentino Rossi’s results had been falling for three or four years, but like Barry Sheene, he remained the fan’s champion long after his last win. Now all he has to do is come back in a few years and win on the Isle of Man to finally replace Mike Hailwood as the greatest of all time.
For me there was a more commanding atmosphere last season. That was announced for several years and different aspects are now contributing to a worrying crescendo … MotoGP is taking too much of an example from Formula 1. To its disadvantage.
This is shown in the compulsive expansion of the calendar. Once upon a time, additional races had to be introduced in Spain to polish up the numbers. The reluctance of those responsible to remove them now, combined with the need for the motorcycle industry to reach potential customers in the few growing markets (such as Thailand and Indonesia), results in a calendar of 21 Grand Prix in 2022 – more than ever before and only one race less than this year’s Formula 1 season. Are there too many? Some believe so.
But there are also other examples of the F1 creed. Show business over sport. The risk that this entails was illustrated by the poisoned end of a memorable Formula 1 season, when the title on the last lap did not go to the driver, who was clearly on course for victory in the decisive race until then, but to his rivals, thanks in part to the Intervention by the race management and a number of controversial decisions.
MotoGP also saw some seemingly well-intentioned but often cynical interference in the results in 2021. The sometimes harmful influence of stewards has been discussed ad nauseam by the author of these lines. The fact is: decisions that affect race results and the outcome of a championship are sometimes fair, always unpopular. They need to be kept to a minimum.
At the end of November, the official confirmation of another imitation followed: a deal with Amazon Prime Video gives MotoGP its own documentary series that provides insights behind the scenes – based on the Netflix model “Drive to Survive”. Extremely successful and well worth seeing as a pastime, “Drive to Survive” not only expanded the Formula 1 fan base, but also reduced its average age.
So that can only be good for MotoGP, right?
Well, except for the sporty aspect. Everyone who has seen the F1 documentary will have been amazed how little the drivers, and especially the team managers, like each other. The poison in the atmosphere, which is evident in almost continuous protests and counter-protests, is in sharp contrast to the previously relatively warm atmosphere in the MotoGP paddock.
Wash away the old, let in the new? Caution!