Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Simran Kanthi
Match point, Malaysia. MotoGP heads to its final stop of the fly-away tour for the penultimate round of the season where a new champion could be crowned. Turning a 91 points deficit into a 14-point lead, Francesco Bagnaia could become a premier class world champion at the next round if he is to pass his next test in the southeast of Asia. Located not far from Kuala Lumpur, stands the daunting Sepang International Circuit. At 5.543 kilometres (3.44 miles), the Sepang International Circuit is second in length only to Silverstone. Though characterised by the stop/go nature that befalls most modern circuits, this track's high-speed nature and long straights make the simple task of braking an intimidating one.
With 15 corners and eight straights, seven of which lead into hard braking zones, Sepang is not short of overtaking opportunities and as if the layout was not challenging enough, the threat of a change in the weather looms ominously over the circuit. The possibility of rain is one that hangs over the circuit like a literal dark cloud.
Heading into what could be a title decider, defending Champion Fabio Quartararo is on the proverbial backfoot. Having led the championship for most of the season, the Frenchman not only ceded the championship lead but gave up a 14-point lead. With his form as of late, following a crash in Phillip Island and a no-score in Thailand, Quartararo faces a herculean task if he is to win the championship.
At the opposite end of the spectrum is Francesco Bagnaia, the Italian in the process of writing one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. Having been down and out at Sachsenring, Bagnaia's otherworldly run of form has seen him on the podium at every race he's finished since crashing out at the Sachsenring.
Behind Quartararo in the standings are Aleix Espargaro and Enea Bastianini who trail Bagnaia by 27 and 42 points, respectively. Though the pair stands a mathematical chance at winning the championship, with two races left, it would require nothing short of a miracle. However, with this being Grand Prix motorcycle racing, miracles are not in short supply.
There are no guarantees in racing, as "Pecco" stands at the brink of realising a lifelong dream, he will be well aware of that fact, as will his competitors. To secure the title, Bagnaia would need to outscore Quartararo by 11 points, a feat the Italian has accomplished twice in the past two races. However, with the weather possibly playing a factor, it's anyone's guess if we'll even have a champion by the end of the race. What is certain is that the Malaysian Grand Prix is a chapter in the 2022 season that will be etched in the minds of motor-racing fans for a long time.