In what has seemed like news that has shocked nearly every person in the MotoGP world, Suzuki have announced they are ceasing their factory operations and leaving MotoGP at the end of the 2022 season. A decision which has been seemingly been made solely at the manufacturer’s headquarters and without input from the team, it leaves huge ramifications for the class at several levels – leaving the grid two bikes short, the entire group of engineers and mechanics unemployed, and two of the highest regarded riders in the series scurrying for a ride in 2023. With this bombshell leaving the paddock in seeming disarray, let’s take a look at the consequences the departure will have on the series.
The Shock Value
The news of Suzuki’s departure came straight out of left field to the watching world, the fact that the idea that one of the six manufacturers might leave MotoGP was not even vaguely on people’s minds as of yesterday. With Suzuki only having announced signing with promoter Dorna to continue running in the sport until 2026 last April, the news has caught off guard not only the onlookers, but the people inside the team as well. Principal Livio Suppo, having only been hired a few months ago, was giving statements as recently as the Portugese Grand Prix concerning his intentions with his two riders for 2023, showing that no one in the team had made an input in the decision before it came and left and entire team of staff facing unemployment. It is not the first time in history that Suzuki have similarly pulled the rug under the feet of the MotoGP world in such a fashion, as the manufacturer made the same decision to quit after the final race of the 2011 season. That decision was caused by the global recession of the period as well as the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, but it remains to be seen whether the financial impact of the COVID pandemic is the cause behind this decision.
The Missing Team
One of the more upfront effects of Suzuki’s withdrawal is that the MotoGP grid is now missing a team and a manufacturer. It is known that promoter Dorna’s preference was to have a 24-bike grid with each factory team supplying a satellite team; however, that dream has been firmly crushed with now only five manufacturers and interest from other outside factories extremely minimal. It remains to be seen if the final two grid slots can be filled up, and it is in Dorna’s best interests to do so given the constant surge of talent from Moto2 and Moto3 making it an almost necessity. The one plausible way of doing this at the moment is by Dorna somehow convincing someone to take over the leftover Suzuki equipment and run the team into 2022. A similar idea to this was done in 2009 when Kawasaki announced its exit before its machinery continued to be run under the name of Hayate Racing. However, this option will probably require significant investment from Dorna itself in order to attract interest and keep the team running, investment that would probably come from slicing the income of the pre-existing satellite teams to divert funds into this new one, an option we can’t imagine sitting well with those teams.
The Rider Market Shakeup
Arguably the biggest talking point of this news is that it leaves 2020 World Champion Joan Mir and teammate Alex Rins as free agents in the rider market – two of the highest regarded riders in the category. This will no doubt cause a serious rethink of several factories’ driver line ups and plans, it having been assumed that the two would be staying with Suzuki for next season. Mir has been regularly courted to be Marc Marquez’s teammate at Repsol Honda if Pol Espargaro continues his 2021 slump; and despite an initially promising start, Espargaro has not significantly improved, meaning Mir may very well be eyeing up a move to HRC. The Honda bike seems to favour Mir’s hard braking riding style, so he may be eager for a move there for that reason, but that also provides a reason for a move to another factory.
Ducati was largely believed to have its rider line-up sorted out, having a surplus of talent on its hands for the first time in its MotoGP history. It was widely assumed heading into the season that Pramac rider Jorge Martin would be signed to join Pecco Bagnaia (already signed for 2023 and beyond) in the factory team following an impressive rookie year leaving Jack Miller to drop back to the Pramac squad. However, a crash-prone start to the season for Martin (having crashed in four of the six opening races), will undoubtedly be cause for concern at Bologna and may cause a rethink. Sharing a seeming affinity to Mir’s riding style with the Honda, it could end up being smart move on Ducati’s part to plump for the Spaniard, although it could cause problems with their already stacked group of riders and only a set number of seats to place them at.
The best solution to Rins’ dilemma seems to lie with Yamaha, who posses a bike and inline-four engine that seems perfect for Rins’ more smoother riding style. The WithU Yamaha satellite squad would seem like Rins’ best bet in that case, as the factory team already has Franco Morbidelli under contract for 2023 and Yamaha doing all it can to get reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo to extend his deal. Andrea Dovizioso’s factory backed venture with the team seems set to last only a single season after a poor start which would easily open up a competitive ride in the fold for Rins. However, this isn’t to rule out the two other factories on the grid, Aprilia and KTM, as potential options for either rider, as both possess the financial muscle to make such a move happen, a potential open space at their factory line-ups for next season, and a bike that, if adapted to properly, can provide sufficient performance to satisfy the two’s ambitions.