Bagnaia on a roll, Quartararo under pressure: Austria awaits MotoGP as KTM race at home and Aprilia aim to keep the roll going at the Red Bull Ring.
A few races ago, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo was starting to become the runaway favourite for the 2022 crown, but since his error at Assen and then a tougher race at Silverstone - both of which were won by Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia - the momentum has most definitely turned. Now the paddock heads to the Red Bull Ring and serious winning turf for Ducati, it could be another pivotal chance for Bagnaia to continue cutting that gap - especially as it's often been tougher Sunday turf for Yamaha.
There is a new chicane to contend with, however, and that leaves lap records behind and adds an extra challenge to the weekend ahead. Still, the venue has seen many a Ducati win and for a handful of different riders, so the factory remains the favourite. With Bagnaia on form, teammate Jack Miller fresh from the podium, Prima Pramac’s Jorge Martin already a winner at the track and Gresini’s Enea Bastianini back up into the battle at Silverstone, there is a long list of hopefuls and it doesn't even stop there, with the likes of Pramac’s Johann Zarco and Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi likewise quick and eager to make their mark.
Another factory eager to keep the pressure on Quartararo is Aprilia. Aleix Espargaro didn't manage to capitalise on the number 20's eighth at Silverstone as he crossed the line one behind, but after a huge highside on Saturday left him racing with a broken heel, that became a job well done in difficult circumstances as he only lost one point to the Frenchman. And there was still an Aprilia on the podium...
After speed before bad luck in Germany and then third at Assen, which marked his first rostrum finish with the Noale factory, second at Silverstone and only four tenths off Bagnaia was quite a statement from Maverick Viñales. The trend says the next step should be the top one, but it's far from a simple task in MotoGP. Can ‘Top Gun’ do it, in his 200th Grand Prix and at a poetic place to get back on top? The Aprilia remains as serious a threat as ever, and at the very least it may be a good weekend to chip away more points from Yamaha for both RS-GP machines.
Meanwhile, KTM is racing at home and will have big aims for the weekend. The tougher season continues but there have been solid moves forward, and both Brad Binder and Red Bull teammate Miguel Oliveira have won at the venue, in two very different styles. With the grandstands full of orange and a new chicane for everyone, will the hills be alive with a podium challenge from the Mattighofen factory? They'll certainly be pushing to the limit to try and get in that battle for the first time since the first couple of races of the season.
Suzuki will also want more from the Red Bull Ring. The Hamamatsu factory has form there and Joan Mir even more so, with the circuit having been the scene of the Ecstar rider’s first win in the World Championship and the number 36 seeming to have figured out a few secrets to being fast in Styria. For teammate Alex Rins the same could be said of Silverstone and the number 42 spent much of the race at the front, but after fading in the latter stages he'll be looking to bounce back. Qualifying remains a challenge for both Suzuki and KTM, with the riders often charging forward on Sunday, so that will likely be a focus too as the new chicane creates a new lap record, likely to be set on Saturday afternoon.
Finally, for Honda there is some big news: Marc Marquez will be back in the paddock. The number 93 isn't riding or racing again just yet, but he'll be on hand as the Japanese factory continue to focus on developing the new RC213V. Already in contact from home, now the eight-time World Champion will be on site as Stefan Bradl and Pol Espargaro aim to take the Repsol Honda further into the points, as do Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Alex Marquez (LCR Honda Castrol).
Is the Red Bull Ring still Borgo Panigale turf? Can Maverick Viñales put in a poetic weekend? Are KTM up to push forward on home turf? What will the standings look like as we head for San Marino? We'll find out this weekend, with MotoGP going racing on Sunday for the CryptoDATA Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich.