The winners and losers of the Portuguese Grand Prix
Written by Andrew Lwanga, Edited by Sasha Macmillen
The Grand Premio De Portugal (Portuguese Grand Prix if you're not fun at parties) came to an exciting conclusion on Sunday. The race marked the beginning of the European chapter of the 2022 MotoGP season and another twist in the story that is Grand Prix motorcycle racing.
Though the chequered flag has fallen, the impact the horsepower rollercoaster left cannot be overstated, and with that we take a look at some of the biggest winners and losers leaving the Algarve.
WINNER: FABIO QUARTARARO
Unsurprisingly, the biggest winner of the Portuguese Grand Prix was the winner of the Portuguese Grand Prix. Headed into the Portuguese Grand Prix (that's too many Portuguese Grand Prix) world champion Fabio Quartararo's title hopes for 2022 seemed slightly beyond the realm of possibility. From lights out in Qatar at the season opener it was evident that the Yamah's were at a pace deficit to the rest of the factory bikes and though Yamaha's team manager Lin Jarvis promised that they'd work to improve the bike, many wondered whether when and if the upgrades came, it would be too little too late. Well it's apparent that many did not factor Quartararo's brilliance into the equation as a stunning ride from the Frenchman in Portimao saw him take a dominant victory finishing five seconds clear of his nearest competitor. The win also meant that "El Diablo" now sits atop the Championship standings.
LOSER: ENEA BASTIANINI
It was a weekend to forget for Enea Bastianini. "The Beast" entered the weekend on a high, fresh off the back of a race win in Austin at Circuit Of The Americas where he regained the championship lead. It appeared to go smoothly however the Italian suffered a crash in the first session of Qualifying which saw him start a lowly 20th. During the race, Bastianini managed to battle his way through the pack running as high as 12th before suffering a high side where his Desmosedici-GP21 spat him into the gravel and out of the race. The Italian thus relinquished his championship lead to the aforementioned Frenchmen and now sits at fourth in the standings 8 points off the lead.
WINNER: ALEX RINS
If you were to look up the word consistent in the dictionary there's a picture of a brown eyed man in Suzuki blue leathers staring back at you. That's Alex Rins. The Spaniard has been a model of consistency, finishing four of the last four rounds in the top 5, more than any other rider. Going into Portimao it seemed the Spaniard's run of form may have taken a hit after qualifying. Rins qualified 23rd on the grid, just one position from dead last. That did little to stop him on Sunday however as he sliced his way through the field like a hot knife through butter to finish a very commendable P4. With that result Rins is now tied on points for the Championship lead but remains second to Quartararo on countback as a result of the Frenchman's win.
LOSER: JACK MILLER
Jack Miller was another who would not carry with him great memories from the weekend. Coming off a podium finish from the US, the Aussie carried a great deal of momentum into Portugal. It however turned out to be a case of thrill and agony for Thriller Miller. Starting from the head of the second row in fourth, Miller showed podium pace and was soon battling Joan Mir for third with the Suzuki man seeming to go backwards. Miller's ambitions slightly got the better of him though as he went for a late lunge on the Spaniard into turn one but it proved to be too late as the Ducati's front end lost grip and skidded into a low side collecting the unsuspecting Mir, ending a promising weekend in the gravel.
WINNER: JOHANN ZARCO
It is not often that Zarco is associated with... anything really. For most of his Ducati stint the Frenchman has largely flown under the radar, sometimes to his own detriment. Great performances from Enea Bastianini in outdated machinery has for the past 12 months called Zarco's future aboard a factory Ducati into question. Coming into 2022, Zarco has undoubtedly upped his game and most visibly in the Portuguese rollercoaster. A gamble to get on slicks saw the Frenchman grab pole in Qualifying and though he lost the lead to compatriot Quartararo, Zarco was able to hold on to second making it a French one-two. Zarco is now fifth in the standings, 19 points off the lead but is the top factory Ducati rider albeit 10 points behind Bastianini who is on the 2021 version of the Desmosedici.
LOSER: JORGE MARTIN
It's been a rough ride so far in 2022 for last year's Rookie Of The Year. Martin has only managed two finishes so far this season, the least of anyone in the entire field. A Q1 elimination on the Saturday before the race did little to help his shaky comeback, having scored his two finishes including a podium in the American leg of the season. The poor showing in qualifying was only compounded by a DNF as "The Martinator" crashed out of the race.
It goes without saying but we'll say it anyway that in any game of high stakes there's winners who don't win big but win nonetheless. The Portuguese Grand Prix had its fair share of such people. Most notably:
The Spaniard continued his run of good form with another podium finish, his second of the season. This puts Espargaro third in the standings just three points behind the leaders as he continues to lead Aprilia in what is becoming their best ever season in the premier class.
Alex Marquez managed his best finish so far. A seventh place which saw him take on brother Marc Marquez for most of the race only to lose out by mere hundreds marked a very solid showing for the young Spaniard. With rumours circulating about the fate of the LCR Honda line up, such showings should help Marquez's case.
At first glance a P8 finish landing "Pecco" in an honourable mentions list seems a mistake. However, taking into consideration the fact that the Italian went into the race with an injured shoulder, the result of a heavy fall in qualifying meant he started last. His climb back into the top 10 is one that for lack of better term, ought to be honoured.