MotoGP 2022 Americas Grand Prix results, analysis, talking points, Enea Bastianini, Gresini, Jack Miller, Ducati

MotoGP’s opening run of four flyaway races is complete, and Enea Bastianini has put himself back on top of the title standings for the first time since the first round with another impressive victory.

But Bastianini’s second win of the year was overshadowed by a foreboding rapid race by the returning Marc Márquez. A poor start put him out of victory contention, but a ferocious recovery left no-one in doubt that the Spaniard, if he can keep himself fully fit, can’t be discounted as a contender this year.

Watch every practice, qualifying and race of the 2022 MotoGP World Championship live and ad break free during racing on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14 days free now >

And the silly season rumbles on, with speculation mounting over Jack Miller’s plum Ducati factory ride — but the Australian got his campaign back on track with a strong podium finish to keep his future in his hands.

Here’s what we learned form the Circuit of the Americas.

ENEA BASTIANINI IS A TITLE CONTENDER

No satellite rider has ever won the MotoGP champion. Enea Bastianini thinks he can be the first.

The 24-year-old Italian is the only repeat winner of this topsy-turvy season to date and leads the title standings. True, his non-victorious results comprised 11th in Indonesia and 10th in Argentina, but there’s a more impressive run of form beneath the raw figures.

In Indonesia he qualified fifth and only struggled after the track was soaked to within minutes of the race being called off, while in Argentina was affected by the lost day of practice owing to freight delays. In both cases conditions were the same for everyone, but in just his second premier-class season the Gresini rider gets a pass.

That’s especially true when you weigh those two lesser races against his pair of victories. In both he demonstrated the kind of situational awareness and pace management that sets apart fluke wins from career success, no more so than in Texas.

Enea Bastianini of Italy and Gresini Racing MotoGP celebrate the victory on the podium during the MotoGP Of The Americas.Source: AFP

The early part of his race was an exercise in patience, biding his time and saving the tires for a late assault. It was Álex Rins’s forays forward that ultimately switched La Bestia into beast mode, and suddenly he was unleashing the pace with the rubber he’d held in reserve to deprive factory Ducati rider Jack Miller of the lead with five laps to run.

Keep in mind too that this is on a year-old bike, hand-me-down machinery.

“It’s only the first four races, the championship is long, but we have very good potential,” he said. “The team works well and I think we can battle for the championship.”

It’ll be a tall order up against factory-backed rivals, but there’s also no arguing with those two victories, achieved when theoretically quicker factory machinery hasn’t yet been able to demonstrate the kind of pace we’ve been expecting since the first breed of the season.

At the end of the campaign you have to have done the business, and the points tally tells you Bastianini’s doing it better than anyone else right now.

NO CONFIDENCE NO PROBLEM FOR MARC MÁRQUEZ

The build-up for the Americas Grand Prix was dominated by Marc Márquez’s decision to return to the sport after a week on the sidelines suffering a diplopia relapse triggered by the monster crash that put him out of the preceding race in Indonesia.

It had been the latest in a growing list of serious injuries and accidents in Márquez’s career, and the Spaniard was determined to return from it as quickly as possible. But would his comeback be too soon, and what kind of Márquez would jump back on the Honda bike?

The answer, for good or bad, was that we got the old Marc Márquez back. Ninth on the grid, last at the first corner, up nine places in five lapses and up to sixth at the flag — it was a flawed but magical performance all at the same time.

There are clearly some psychological barriers to be hurdled at what is hopefully the end of a long journey of injury, and in qualifying, the arena of some of his most spectacular COTA feats, he admitted to vulnerability.

“I didn’t believe in myself in the quali,” he said. “During all weekend I worked very well, I worked nice in my rhythm, in my pace. But then in the quali … I didn’t want to push and then I didn’t want to believe in myself.

“I’m coming from one of my worst weekends in MotoGP class, from the biggest highside, and all these things [affect me].”

Marc Marquez rounds the bend during the MotoGP qualifying practice during the MotoGP Of The Americas.Source: AFP

In the race too the injury risk was on his mind, and by the end of the grand prix his lack of fitness started to bite, halting his incredible 18-place comeback.

“My target all weekend was to build confidence, to try and not crash all weekend, because the doctors said that everything was fixed, but I’m scared about my health,” he said.

“It’s not the result I expected, but if I look at where I was at the first corner and where [I was] in the end, I can say that I regained a lot of confidence, and that was my goal.

“The feeling now is satisfaction. To be here already this weekend was satisfaction, and to finish the race in sixth position was also satisfaction if we check how we started.”

But we’ve heard this sort of talk from Márquez before — earlier in the year in fact. In Qatar he spoke at length about needing to play the long, patient game as he got his body back up to speed and developed an understanding of the new bike. It lasted around a fortnight before his monster crash.

His performance at COTA was a reminder that he’s not done yet — far from it — but to deliver this kind of spectacle consistently he needs to be fit enough to ride. He’ll have to prove he can get there before we can say Marquez is back in the game.

Mark sent a reminder at COTA.Source: AFP

CHAMPAGNE, NO HAM, FOR JACK MILLER

You mightn’t think it given he led all but the last five lapses of the race, but Jack Miller will be pleased with third in Austin, his first podium of the season as the 10th different podium getter of the year.

The Australian is in a battle against time to secure himself a ride for 2023. He’s unsigned at Ducati for next season, and if the team plumps for Jorge Martin, as has long been rumoured, he’ll need a bolstered CV to lock down a factory gig elsewhere.

His campaign had stalled in Argentina after a promising first two rounds, but second on the grid and third on the road after being outstrategized by winner Bastianini and second place getter Rins was enough to put things back on track as the sport returns to Europe, where minds will sharpen to the task of contract wheeling and dealing.

“When you lead until five laps to go, when you’re second with two corners to go, third probably is the lowest result you’d hope for, but it’s been a good weekend for me here in Texas,” he wrote on his website. “I feel I’m back on track with where I should be after these first four races.”

Miller’s weaknesses through his Ducati years have been his race management and consistency. His speed is undoubted, but putting the pieces together to collect race wins is what he needs to demonstrate more frequently. In Indonesia and the USA, at least, he’s shown signs that he’s developed in this area for 2022.

But still the new deal isn’t forthcoming, and the Australian is sussing out his options in a worst-case scenario at Ducati.

“Of course [I’m speaking to other teams],” he said. “I’m not a piece of f****** sliced ​​ham; there are other interests out there, and I know I will be able to get a job somewhere in this paddock. I’m not stressed about that whatsoever.

“But I have stuck to my word with Ducati … my main focus is to try and be here.”

He’s now the best-placed 2022-spec Ducati rider, albeit 30 points shy of Bastianini’s leading customer bike, and there’s not much more Miller can do but keep on performing and let his results do the talking.

Jack Miller of Australia and Ducati Lenovo Team celebrate the third place.Source: Getty Images

RIDING STANDARDS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The Circuit of the Americas has the longest straight on the MotoGP calendar, running to 1.2 kilometers, which makes engine performance important and puts a premium on getting a slipstream during qualifying to boost top speed.

Not for the first time we saw plenty of gamesmanship during qualifying between riders in search of the draft, although the wide Texas circuit was clearly more inviting for the riders to play games than other tracks, contributing to some of the more aggressive and arguably dangerous tactics we’ve seen in the premier class for some time.

Indeed matters were so bad in Q1 that Aleix Espargaró, erstwhile title leader, crashed due to what he described as the distraction of those pursuing him for a tow, and several other drivers slammed the behavior as being unbecoming of motorcycle racing’s most senior competitors.

“It’s embarrassing,” Espargaro said. “I have to say that today was my fault, because I’m in a very good position leading, feeling good with the bike.

“I cannot lose the focus. I need to be more focused, do my job.

“If it’s a rookie who is waiting, everybody did it [in the past]. But with Alex Marquez, factory Honda, three or four years in the class … I was like ‘come on’.”

Alex Rins was less forgiving.

“It’s unacceptable,” he said. “We are the big boys; we need to give example to the others.

“I don’t have words to describe the feeling. I was in pushing in Q1, then four or five riders in front stopped. It makes no sense, it’s so dangerous. They need to do something.

“We are MotoGP riders, not Moto3. We talk every safety commission about this and every race is it’s the same.”

Rins — and Fabio Quartararo last week — suggested it was time for MotoGP to abandon the all-in qualifying format and opt for a single-lap qualifying model, sending out riders one by one to avoid gaming the slipstream and to reduce the risk of an unnecessary crash terminal of mismatched closing speed.

But searching for the tow is part of the qualifying game, and there are other ways to rein it in without resorting to up-ending the qualifying format. Tightening up rules around slow laps so that all laps in qualifying mist be within a certain percentage of a rider’s best, similar to the junior classes, would be an easier fix and retain the excitement of the current knockout model, for example.

With bike performance so close this year, expect this to bubble along through the season.

.

Leave a Comment