MotoGP: Can Red Bull KTM still fight for the championship in 2022?
Written by Matthew Brixton-Lee, Edited by Ishani Aziz
The Red Bull KTM MotoGP team came into the 2022 season with high hopes. They have a very strong rider line up with South African Moto 3 champion Brad Binder and multiple-race winner Miguel Oliveira. However this season hasn't quite gone to plan for the factory team so far in 2022. Coming to the halfway point in the season they currently sit fifth in the team standings with Brad binder and Miguel Oliveira being sixth and tenth respectively in the riders standings. So let's take a look at where their season has gone right or wrong and whether it is too late for them to mount a late championship charge.
The Losail international circuit was host to the opening round of the MotoGP season and proved to be a good race for the team in orange. Traditionally this had not been a circuit the team thrived at, with their best result being eighth in 2021. However their fortunes in Qatar were soon to change. After a good start from seventh, Brad Binder found himself in the podium fight and capitalised from others' mistakes. He managed to hold second till the chequered flag and recorded KTM’s first podium in Qatar. However his teammate did not fare so well after sliding off the track from 11th on lap 11.
The next stop on the calendar was Indonesia where it would prove to be an excellent race for the Austrian team. As Sunday dawned rain fell on the circuit leading to a sensational drive by Brad binder who, although suffering issues with the bike managed to secure eighth place and a good haul of points for the team. However nothing could stop Miguel Oliveira who drove an incredible drive from seventh on the grid to claim KTM’s first win of the season. KTM left Indonesia with Binder and Oliveira in second and fourth in the riders championship. And Red Bull KTM Factory Racing leading the team's championship meant that they were in a very good position coming into the third round of the season.
However Argentina was a bump back down to earth for the team in orange. Brad Binder qualified a lowly 11th with teammate Miguel Oliveira even worse off in 16th position. They had work to do in the race and Binder delivered with a masterclass in overtaking to climb his way up to sixth position for another decent points haul. Oliveira was less successful and only managed to work his way up to 13th for three points. The team left Argentina scratching their heads at where their pace had gone.
Moving stateside for round four at the Circuit of the America, the Austrian team had a weekend to forget. They struggled for pace all weekend, and after a poor qualifying performance Binder lined up 17th with Oliveira back down in 20th. Binder managed to claw back some positions in the race to finish 12th and score four points for the team while Oliveira was left to struggle and only finish 18th and outside the points.
MotoGP headed for europe and the portuguese Grand Prix, home race of Miguel Oliveira. All eyes were on the home hero to try and repeat his success of previous years. The Red Bull KTM pair found themselves 11th and 12th on the grid and looking to make up positions in the race. After a strong start to the race Oliveira held on to fifth position and a good haul of points in front of his home crowd. Binders day came to a premature end after contact and he crashed out on lap eight of the race. However after a few difficult races fifth place was a good result for the team to boost confidence for the next few rounds.
Over the border in Jerez, KTM were looking to capitalise on their form from Portimao. However it was a quiet weekend from the Red Bull factory team. Binder started 15th and Oliveira down in 21st place. Binder crossed the line in 10th and Olivira managed to perform some great overtakes and fight his way up to 12th by the time the chequered flag was waved. This started a run of races where the team would struggle. The next race in France compounded this with Oliveira crashing out and Binder suffering damage early on.
The next race in Italy rolled around and yet again Qualifying was a struggle for the team in orange. Oliveira and Binder started on the Grid down in 15th and 16th. However the teams race pace turned out to be good and allowed both of them to climb positions. At the chequered flag Binder finished in seventh while Oliveira was in ninth for a good recovery drive by both riders.
The Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya was next on the calendar and the team were hopeful of being able to repeat their victory from 12 months before. However they had a lot of overtaking to do after qualifying down in 15th and 16th place. Binder and Oliveira battled for 8th place with Binder coming out on top with Oliveira having to settle for 9th. However it was another good result for the team and another double top 10 finish.
The Sachsenring in Germany followed, where Oliveira had had so much success the previous year. But the team's struggles continued seeing them Qualify in 14th and 15th. The Race yet again provided opportunities however, seeing both drivers show off the true race pace of the bike and climb up to seventh and ninth by the time the chequered flag fell. The team had now secured three double top ten finishes in a row and were in good form.
The most recent race took place in the Netherlands. A decent qualifying saw Oliveira start a solid eighth with Binder in 10th. Again the race pace of the KTM came through and saw Binder come through for a very good fifth place finish and a very good points haul for the team with Oliveira in ninth to secure another double points finish.
The Red Bull KTM Factory team sit in fifth in the team standings after leading at the second race of the season. Brad Binder is currently sixth in the riders championship with Miguel Oliveira in tenth. Their early season form has fallen away to see them now barely within championship contention. However, not all is lost for the Bulls. They have proved they have the race pace to fight back and recover what they lost to get back at the top of MotoGP. Both the team’s drivers are race winners, and in their Moto2 days were able to mount late season charges for the championship. With only 10 races remaining and 79 points between Brad Binder and championship leader Fabio Quartararo, time is running out for Red Bull KTM to make a change.
The next round of the championship is at Silverstone for the British GP, and KTM will really need to improve their qualifying pace to be able to challenge the championship leaders but if they do then the stage is set for a thrilling second half of the MotoGP season.