Who to Watch in 2023 MotoGP

Remember Christmas 2021? It was just the other day, right? And there was huge anticipation for the 2022 MotoGP season until we blinked twice, and suddenly we were shuffling through crowded malls looking for gifts for Christmas 2022. The good news is that the next MotoGP season is a mere half a blink away, promise. And Donovan Fourie is peaking into his magical crystal to see who to look out for in 2023.

Brad Binder:

He’s going to win the championship. Easily. In fact, he will walk it, and no one else will get even close. Also, my crystal ball is South African and has a tribute room to the number 33 rider. Realistically, this could be his season, depending on what KTM does. Many of his peers, who have shared a track with him for the past three years, have commented on his talent. His ability to outdo his talented teammates in almost every race means he has the right stuff.

Come on, KTM, please be good!

Miguel Oliveira:

Speaking of Binder teammates, Miguel Oliveira has left, after four years in the KTM stable, to join the new RNF Aprilia team, and provided the team can get hold of the technical aspects of its new Italian Stallion, it will be an exciting indication of where the KTM is compared to Aprilia. Put plainly, if Miguel hauls on the Aprilia far more than he did on the KTM, we know the KTM is a bit rubbish. If he lingers towards the back, we know KTM are doing a great job, and its riders need to pull their socks up.

Alex Marquez:

Most people think Marc would be near the top of the list of interesting people to watch, but Alex has outdone him. Probably not on the circuit, or maybe he will – that’s what makes it interesting. For 2023, the brother of the eight-time champion moves to the Gresini Ducati squad, his first venture out of the Honda MotoGP family. So, what is happening is that he is moving from the bike that has been called the worst on the grid, a motorcycle that even Marc can’t win on, to a bike that people say is so easy to ride that a monkey can win on it. The emphasis here is “people say”. It indicates where precisely the Honda stands against the Ducati, the bike “people say” is the best on the grid. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Marc Marquez:

Many MotoGP savants are already pencilling Marc in as the 2023 champion. There’s some justification, too – should the year go to plan, it will be the first in three years that he will not be blighted with injury or requiring surgery. A fit Marc Marquez? That sounds ominous indeed,
Unless the Honda is garbage. Last year, Marquez said he was incapable of winning races on that machine, saying it is simply too far behind the others. He cited Honda needing to work “in a different way” and bring massive upgrades for 2023. If Honda complies, the Spaniard could well resume where he was when he won his last championship in 2019. If Honda doesn’t, Marquez could start shopping around for a new seat. Maybe Alex will put in a good word for him with Ducati.

Joan Mir and Alex Rins:

We are throwing both Spaniards in the same section because both are in the same boat. After Suzuki pulled the plug on its MotoGP project at the end of 2022, both were left paddling out in the deep, and both have been conveniently scooped up by Honda – Mir partnering Marques in the Repsol Honda Team, and Rins climbing into the life raft of LCR Honda. This is interesting because both riders are stepping off a smooth-sailing Suzuki inline-four and into the rocky waters of a fire-breathing Honda V-four. Whether they will sink or sail will be very interesting indeed.

Enea Bastianini:

After a magnificent ride in 2022, where The Beast took four wins and third in the championship with the satellite Ducati Gresini squad, the 24-year-old finds himself in full red for 2023 with the Factory Ducati Team. That’s quite a high honour. Apart from taking the Triple Crown of titles in 2022, Lenovo Ducati has been cited as the best team with the best bike for years, despite only winning the championship last year. That’s a lot of good fortune. And a lot of pressure. The pressure is the downfall of many a rider – Ducati will give you the best machine with the best technical crew. In exchange, they demand results, and a lack of results will result in a short trip to a second-tier World Superbike Team. The Beast will either flourish or fail badly. It’ll be interesting to see which.

Raul Fernandez:

Getting back to the citing of MotoGP savants, Raul Fernandez was cited by these same savants as the next big thing in MotoGP, especially after a grand final year in Moto3 and then nearly winning his rookie year in Moto2.

Then, in 2022, MotoGP happened, and he did very little. On a good day, he would finish in the points (just). He seems to suggest that it was a combination of injuries and the team he was with, Tech3 KTM, not being up to standard. KTM indicated that he and his entourage didn’t exactly have the best attitude. For 2023, the Spaniard joins fellow KTM veteran Miguel Oliveira at RNF Aprilia, where we will see who was right.

Jack Miller:

Much like Miguel Oliveira, Alex Marquez, Joan Mir and Alex Rins, Jack Miller moves from his long-time spot on a team into a new team with a new bike. In this case, he moves from the Factory Ducati seat onto a Factory KTM, where he will partner with Brad Binder. The premise is the same as the other riders – how will he compare on the KTM after the Ducati? Whatever the outcome of the standings, the KTM pit, with both the Miller and Binder personalities, should be the most fun place in the paddock in 2023.

Augusto Fernandez:

And the award for Rookie of the Year 2023 goes to Augusto Fernandez, the only rookie in 2023. With Suzuki disappearing from MotoGP, there has been a shortage of seats and little room for rookies. Hence, Fernandez stands alone on the rookie podium.

Predicting his pace for 2023 is tricky – yes, he is a Moto2 champion, but then again, it took him six years in the class to accomplish this feat, and he was in the best team. So was he in the right place at the right time, or is he genuinely talented enough to deserve a spot on the MotoGP grid? We will see in a year’s time. I don’t think KTM is that bothered – they need a seat for Pedro Acosta in 2024, anyway.

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