The Ducati Lenovo Team’s Francesco Bagnaia has won the 2022 MotoGP™ World Championship by finishing ninth in the final race of the season at the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana – a first such title for the man mentored by Valentino Rossi.
Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo started the Grand Prix needing nothing less than victory to have any hope of a second straight crown but finished a fighting fourth in a contest won by Team Suzuki Ecstar’s Alex Rins – one more victory for the Hamamatsu manufacturer. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) and Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) rounded out the podium after 27 laps around the Circuit Ricardo Tormo.
Early contact between Bagnaia and Quartararo
Rins qualified on the middle of Row 2 but made a brilliant start and led the field to the first corner, ahead of pole-sitter Martin and Jack Miller (Ducati Lenovo Team). Quartararo took a wide berth at the Turn 2 braking zone, emerging behind Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) and in a battle for fifth with none other than Bagnaia.
When Marquez attacked Miller for third on the opening lap, Quartararo squeezed his Yamaha down the inside of the Australian’s Ducati at Turn 8 as well, and he was up to fourth.
Miller hit back at the start of Lap 2, forcing Quartararo to pick up his YZR-M1 at Turn 2 with a pass which incentivised Bagnaia to also have a look. The title contenders made contact which pulled a wing off the factory-entered Ducati, but Bagnaia was ahead of his key rival.
It stayed that way until Lap 4, when Quartararo was down his inside at Turn 6 and back into fifth position – but facing a task to catch the top four.
Bagnaia starts to slide as Marquez crashes
In said top four, Miller moved back into the podium positions when he passed Marquez on Lap 6 at Turn 1, before the eight-time World Champion crashed out altogether, four laps later at Turn 8.
In the meantime, Quartararo had shaken Bagnaia, who, due to some combination of caution and the damage from his contact with ‘El Diablo’, was on the slide. He had already been overtaken for sixth by Brad Binder when he gave Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) an easy position on Lap 13 at Turn 14.
Up the road, Rins was trying to break away but the rest of the top five was compressing, which was both good and bad news for Quartararo given he was running fourth with a KTM ridden by Binder catching up. The Frenchman braked as deep as he dared at Turn 1 at the start of Lap 18 to try and keep the South African behind him, but ran wide and was picked off by Binder at Turn 2.
Binder on the rise but Rins creeps clear
Meanwhile, Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) was also through on Bagnaia, and soon Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was as well.
Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) then caught up to his future teammate and while he might have had thoughts about the Ducati hierarchy watching on in the garage, Pecco left a humongous gap at Turn 2 on Lap 22 to give ninth position to ‘La Bestia’ and save himself any possible trouble.
It was more dramatic in the battle for the podium places, with Binder going past his own future teammate, Miller, on Lap 23 at Turn 2, then setting after Martin. Halfway around the lap at Turn 11, Miller’s last race with Ducati came to a premature end when he crashed out, handing over fourth spot to Quartararo again.
Bagnaia is the Champion
Rins had not quite been able to drop the field like he might have hoped, but was still nine tenths of a second to the good when Binder overtook Martin for second place at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap.
They would take the chequered flag 0.396 seconds apart as Rins delivered the final win for Suzuki in its current stint in MotoGP™, with Martin getting home just over a second from victory, and Quartararo nine tenths further back.
Oliveira would pass Mir for fifth, with the 2020 World Champion therefore classified sixth, ahead of Marini and Bastianini. Bagnaia found himself under pressure from Quartararo’s Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ teammate Franco Morbidelli in the final laps but beat the Italian to ninth position.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) finished 11th, ahead of Tech3 KTM Factory Racing duo Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner, then Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) in 14th and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) in the last points-paying position.
Joining Miller on the list of retirements was Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing) after a crash on Lap 16, plus both the Aprilia Racing entries of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Viñales, both the Repsol Honda Team entries of Marquez and Pol Espargaro, and also Darryn Binder (WithU Yamaha RNF MotoGP™ Team).
Bagnaia can now celebrate his first MotoGP™ Championship crown, and Ducati’s first riders’ title in 15 long years, but before the off-season, we have the Valencia Test back at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo on Tuesday.
MotoGP™ Race Top 10
1. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar)
2. Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 0.396
3. Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) + 1.059
4. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 1.911
5. Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) + 7.122
6. Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 7.735
7. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) + 8.524
8. Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) + 12.038
9. Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) + 14.441
10. Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) + 14.676