Following on from the top ten F1 drivers of 2012 here is the top ten MotoGP riders of the year!
It’s hard to believe but there were serious question marks about Marc Marquez at the start of the season. His vision problems were the biggest Moto2 story of the offseason. However under the lights of Qatar Marquez showed us straight away that while everyone else was focused on his focal length he was focused on winning a second world title.
Nine victories and only two non-finishes gave him a dominant Moto2 crown. Some of his performances were simply astounding. At his intermediate class signoff at Valencia he started last on the grid and was in the top ten by the second lap before taking the victory.
His opening lap as he fearlessly positioned his Suter to slide through the field was the most impressive single moment of the 2012 season but for Marquez the entire season was superb. His combative style and merciless approach to racing made him a regular target for the attention of race control but made him an even bigger star for his legion of fans.
With his move to MotoGP next season he will be the most anticipated rookie since Lorenzo.
This was the season where Pedrosa showed his detractors that he is truly belongs in the elite group of “MotoGP Aliens.”
In recent years the diminutive Spaniard has had to endure lots of criticism for his inability to win a premier class despite riding a factory Honda for the last seven seasons. These critics said that Dani doesn’t have the killer instinct needed and lacks consistency; they were quiet by seasons end.
For the first time in his career Pedrosa was injury free for the campaign and he was superb. Pedrosa penned a season that any rider would have been proud of and even though he was pipped to the title again he was the best MotoGP rider of 2012. His seven victories was more than anyone else and were it not for being a helpless victim of Hector Barbera at Misano it could be argued that Dani would have been favourite for the title.
You would think that after such a superb season that there would be few question marks hanging over Pedrosa for 2013 however with Marc Marquez joining him at Repsol-Honda comparisons between both riders is sure to be one of the hot topics of the coming year.
Lorenzo’s second premier class title was an ode to consistency. Lorenzo stood on the podium at all but two races and continued to add to his legacy as a racing legend.
Pedrosa may have won more races but he simply couldn’t match Jorge’s now legendary ability to get the most from his bike at every race. This was epitomised at the season opening Qatar GP when the Honda was clearly the fastest package but Lorenzo took advantage of the chattering Honda’s and Stoner’s arm pump to start his season with a victory.
In racing the only legitimate comparison for a rider is his teammate and Jorge’s domination of Ben Spies was complete. The difference in both riders was to such an extent that the highly regarded American was rumoured to have been looking at a return to Superbikes before making a surprise move to Ducati.
Next season Rossi will return to Yamaha and now Lorenzo has cemented his team leadership over the course of his five year tenure.
Injury forced Stoner to miss three races but still the double champion was hugely impressive. Winning five races and showing the same combative style as ever meant that Stoner’s final season in MotoGP was still one to remember but his injury meant that a title charge was impossible.
Until the Italian Grand Prix Stoner was the title favourite but ultimately his Indianapolis crash would lead to a mid-season holiday before returning for the Japanese Grand Prix and finishing the year with three podiums in a row.
Once Casey was injured the most important thing for him was to return in time for his home Grand Prix. Philip Island has becomes his personal playground and his seventh consecutive Australian Grand Prix victory clearly meant a lot for Stoner. He has rarely raced with his heart on his sleeve but at Philip Island it seemed as though it meant far more to him than in the past. Off track Casey was not to everyone’s taste but his style on a bike was such that he demanded respect. With a move to Aussie V8 Supercars on the horizon he will be sorely missed in MotoGP.
After a difficult rookie Moto2 season Espargaro was superb for most of the season but ultimately fell short of the title. His string of superb qualifying performances in the second half of the season, never starting lower than second, showed just how fast Pol has become on the Moto2 bike but in race trim he wasn’t able to match Marquez.
Espargaro is one of the most combative riders on the grid but his clash with Marquez at Bacelona may have had a lasting impact on his title charge. He followed this up with victory at Silverstone but a costly early crash at Assen gave Marquez the title momentum.
His four wins and 11 podiums showed a consistency that will make him a clear pre-season favourite for Moto2 next year.
Having been deemed surplus to requirements by HRC following a difficult 2011 season “Dovi” moved to Tech 3. Armed with a satellite Yamaha it was always going to be a difficult season for the former 125cc champion but six podium finishes showed that he was racing at the top of his game.
Only one race victory in his five years of MotoGP action does however show that while Andrea is a very talented rider he is not likely to suddenly morph into a championship contender with his move to Ducati for next season.
The fight between Dovizioso and his teammate, Cal Cruthclow, was exciting throughout the season. Over the balance of the year the Italian finished the year comfortably ahead of Crutchlow in the championship standings with his better race craft allowing him to overcome his still apparent lack of single lap speed.
Crutchlow made huge progress in his second season of MotoGP action. As a rookie he showed a lot of promise until a crash at Silverstone left him with a broken collarbone. His sophomore season however showed him as a much more complete rider.
Starting the year with a front row start in Qatar was followed up with another six top three qualifying performances. For much of the season Cal was battling with his teammate for the lowest step on the podium and the Englishman was rewarded with podiums at Brno and Philip Island.
Having been heavily linked with a move to Ducati for much of the summer it seemed inevitable that Cal would make the move to factory machinery for 2013 before he decided to remain with Tech 3 for another season. He will be joined by Bradley Smith next season and with the rookie having endured a miserable season in Moto2 it would be hugely surprising if Cal is not a dominant team leader and once again a genuine front runner.
The inaugural Moto3 World Champion was as consistent as a metronome with 15 podiums from 17 races. The German stood on each step of the rostrum five times and did a fantastic job of always getting the maximum from his Ajo Motorsport KTM.
The season opened with Maverick Vinales expected to dominate and win the title but Cortese did a terrific job throughout the season to put himself into a position to win the title. By the end of the season Vinales was a shadow of what was expected of his title campaign while Cortese got stronger and stronger.
The fight within the Ajo team was tight and Cortese showed little regard for his teammate, Danny Kent, in numerous battles. The most dramatic of these was at Assen when Cortese and Kent banged into one another and Kent was very lucky not to crash spectacularly.
Cortese was heavily criticised for his hard riding and his petulant reaction following a last lap crash in Japan, he remounted to finish sixth, but overall he was hugely impressive.
A move to Gresini Honda-and a factory supported Honda-placed a lot of pressure on Bautista but as the year progressed he was increasingly impressive. This season saw the Spaniard claim the first pole position of his premier class career before also finishing third at Misano and Motegi.
It was undoubtedly a difficult season for Gresini given the loss of Marco Simoncelli last year but the team did an admirable job of moving on from the tragedy and with Bautista evolving as the season wore on they were in the fight for the top five in most races for the second half of the season.
As the only Honda rider using Showa suspension it was difficult for Bautista to setup his bike, as he had no other rider’s data to assist him, but by Silverstone the team made a big step forward and Bautista’s form improved immediately.
Next season will be difficult for Bautista with Stefan Bradl likely to be even more competitive but Gresini will have to be satisfied with their decision to hire this former 125cc champion.
The first “CRT Champion” quietly put together a competitive season with a season best eighth place finish at the wet Malaysian Grand Prix as well as a handful of top ten finishes.
The CRT machinery was poor for most of the season but the Aspar squad did a commendable job of developing their bike and by season’s end Espargaro and his teammate, Randy de Puniet, were competitive as they fought for the leadership of the unofficial secondary class in MotoGP.
The season ending Valencia Grand Prix saw Espargaro take advantage of the wet conditions to lead in the early stages before the track dried and he fell back to finish 11th.
In the past Espargaro was not paired with many known commodities but this season alongside de Puniet he really showed how good a racer that he has developed into.