Seven of the 11 MotoGP teams go into 2024 with different rider line-ups after a silly season that was getting wild even before Marc Marquez's seismic decision to walk out on Honda.
Who's done particularly well out of the rider switches? Who's now weaker?
We asked our writers and pundits to rank the 11 teams' line-ups from best to worst, focusing only on the riders' ability/potential and not the quality of their teams or bikes. We then applied the MotoGP grand prix scoring system to create a collective ranking.
11 TRACKHOUSE APRILIA
Miguel Oliveira, Raul Fernandez
Down two places from 2023
Best ranking: 10th (Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson, Glenn Freeman, Jonny Reynolds, Matt Beer)
Worst ranking: 11th (Toby Moody, Jack Cozens, Josh Suttill)
The team's changing as NASCAR's Trackhouse supplants RNF, but the rider line-up isn't. Which might not be a good thing given our pundits' lukewarm opinions of Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez - or rather, their ability to actually deliver on their potential.
"A really strong line-up 'in theory' but whether it will equate to a full season of up-to-par production is anyone's guess," says Valentin Khorounzhiy.
"There is an absolute tonne of potential in this squad but 2023 showed that neither rider has learned how to fully utilise it just yet and until they do, it’s hard to rank them higher," agrees Simon Patterson.
But several of our panel noted the effect of Oliveira's plethora of injuries on his first Aprilia season ("when he was fit, he looked fairly competitive," reckons Josh Suttill) and it's Oliveira's better days that convinced Glenn Freeman not to put Trackhouse last.
10 LCR HONDA
Johann Zarco, Taka Nakagami
Down two places from 2023
Best ranking: 9th (Glenn Freeman, Jack Cozens)
Worst ranking: 11th (Simon Patterson, Valentin Khorounzhiy, Jonny Reynolds, Matt Beer)
How does a line-up that includes the rider who finished fifth in the 2023 standings and won the year's best race end up in the penultimate place on our list and ranked last by many panellists?
Because his team-mate Taka Nakagami is "probably the weakest rider on the grid when everyone is fit" - as Jonny Reynolds puts it.
That said, while there's a lot of faith in LCR's new hire Johann Zarco ("a cool signing" in Khorounzhiy's eyes and "far too good to be riding a satellite Honda" according to Suttill), there are also doubts about him.
"I'm a long-time Zarco admirer but as this year proved he will occasionally just go missing for a few races," says Freeman.
And while Matt Beer was "delighted Zarco finally got a MotoGP win", sees his pair of top-five championship finishes from three Pramac seasons as "proof of what a quietly effective operator he's become", admired his back-up of previous team-mate Jorge Martin's 2023 title bid and thinks "he'll be a huge asset to Honda", he's also sure Zarco is "a downgrade" on LCR predecessor Alex Rins.
9 TECH3 GAS GAS
Augusto Fernandez, Pedro Acosta
Up one place from 2023
Best ranking: 7th (Simon Patterson, Jonny Reynolds)
Worst ranking: 11th (Glenn Freeman)
Excitement about Moto2 champion Pedro 'the next Marquez' Acosta elevates Tech3 up several panellists' rankings, with Patterson suggesting his arrival in place of Pol Espargaro makes this "maybe the most anticipated line-up after only Gresini".
He thinks being reunited with 2022 Ajo Moto2 team-mate Augusto Fernandez will be good for Acosta (and Tech3), too.
"The pair know how to work as team-mates and there shouldn’t be any big egos to manage in the garage," he suggests.
But Toby Moody suspects Fernandez will rapidly be overshadowed, wondering "will Augusto be at all visible?"
And recent seasons' curious/fractious events at Tech3 create doubts for some about how even a rookie as highly-rated as Acosta might fare.
"Augusto Fernandez proving a better KTM RC16 rider than Raul Fernandez shows MotoGP rookies can be scary to make predictions about - so even if Acosta is as close to a 'sure thing' as they get, I still need to see a weekend or two," says Khorounzhiy.
For Freeman that worry is strong enough to drag Tech3 to last in his ranking.
"I can't wait to see Acosta in MotoGP," he begins.
"But I'm also very nervous about how KTM's second team has been a graveyard for promising talents in recent years.
"So this ranking partly reflects those concerns, rather than a pure verdict on what is hopefully the arrival of another superstar."
Luca Marini, Joan Mir
Down six places from 2023
Best ranking: 3rd (Simon Patterson)
Worst ranking: 9th (Josh Suttill)
Until it happened, no one had any money on Valentino Rossi's brother leaving Rossi's own MotoGP team to replace Rossi's nemesis Marc Marquez at Honda, but that's exactly what's happening with Luca Marini's move.
Despite a horrible first Repsol season, Joan Mir stays on to join him.
Patterson has the most faith in this pairing, placing it third.
"Let’s be straight - this isn’t a line-up for winning titles," he admits.
"But, given both Mir’s speed and Marini’s reputation for careful analysis and feedback, it is very much the sort of combination that Honda needs to get back to winning ways.
"And if the engineering team supports the pair with the sort of flexibility they need, then it could lay the foundation for something great."
Others are far less sure.
"These two feel like a really solid, dependable duo - exactly what Honda need - but there are definitely faster pairings," says Reynolds.
Freeman goes further.
"It's hard to judge anyone who has to ride a modern Honda, but I've always had lingering doubts about Mir, and he's being partnered by the weaker of the two VR46 riders," he admits. "So this pairing doesn't blow me away."
And he's not the only one unsure about 2020 champion Mir.
"It's Mir who should be anchoring this line-up and I can't help but have concerns after his messy and injury-ravaged 2022 and total write-off 2023," says Khorounzhiy.
"Mir's been a bit ineffective since 2021 and until he finds his form again, it's hard to rank this line-up any higher" is Suttill's reasoning for putting Honda only ninth.
7 VR46 DUCATI
Marco Bezzecchi, Fabio di Giannantonio
No change from 2023
Best ranking: 4th (Matt Beer)
Worst ranking: 7th (Glenn Freeman)
We're into a very close part of the ranking with just two points covering fifth to seventh places. And VR46, where late-season star Fabio Di Giannantonio takes Marini's place alongside Marco Bezzecchi after being evicted from Gresini to make way for Marc Marquez, ends up at the tail end of it.
There's a bit of a 'faint praise' theme in pundits' feedback, such as Reynolds' "feels like a well-balanced duo of regular podium botherers (and perhaps race winners)", but the main misgiving is over di Giannantonio. Utterly brilliant in the final weeks of the season. But where was he before that?
"It's all about how efficient the VR46 structure is at coaxing out Di Giannantonio's late-2023 potential," says Khorounzhiy.
It's not just di Giannantonio who Freeman - who gave this pair their lowest ranking of seventh - wants to see perform more reliably.
"If these two can consistently replicate their 2023 peaks this can develop into a great combination worthy of a much higher place than I've given them," he suggests.
Conversely, Beer's choice of fourth for VR46 is all about Bezzecchi.
"Alright, so he faded in the final few months of the season," he begins. "But what else do you expect from a second-year MotoGP rider on a year-old satellite bike, especially one who was injured by then?
"Until the end of September he was right on the tail of the eventual title rivals. That was a phenomenal performance, one that means anything 'Diggia' can bring to the party in 2024 is a bonus."
Brad Binder, Jack Miller
Down two places from 2023
Best ranking: 3rd (Matt Beer, Valentin Khorounzhiy)
Worst ranking: 9th (Jonny Reynolds)
Another line-up where misgivings about one rider weigh heavily.
"Brad Binder has been dragged down in my list by Jack Miller, whose in-race decision-making was consistently found wanting last year," says Reynolds, who put KTM way down in ninth.
Suttill described Binder as "a great team leader" and Khorounzhiy rates him as "either in MotoGP's elite tier already or juuust below it", while also being pretty positive about Miller: "a strong number two option whose dips in form should become less pronounced with more experienced on the bike".
But there are some counter-views about Binder, too.
"Binder went winless all season despite the potential of the bike," argues Patterson, "while Miller is still the most on-and-off character on the grid.
"There’s an extra step that they need to find, especially with a hungry satellite line-up coming for their spots."
Moody is in that camp, too.
"They have to win races, it's been far too long," he says.
"Plus Miller has to stop falling off to justify keeping his place when KTM can go for Marquez for 2025."
Aleix Espargaro, Maverick Vinales
Down two places from 2023
Best ranking: 4th (Toby Moody, Jack Cozens, Glenn Freeman)
Worst ranking: 8th (Jonny Reynolds)
Aprilia's unchanged pairing of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales very narrowly edges out KTM and VR46 for a top five spot.
There's a bit of a theme to our writers' summaries here too.
"Two very good riders - a gritty late-bloomer and an 'alien'-level talent - who are exceptionally good at tripping over their shoelaces," says Khorounzhiy, "riding for a brave and deeply affable factory that is also exceptionally good at the very same thing."
"Theoretically, this can be among MotoGP's strongest line-ups but it still feels like Vinales promises more potential than he delivers on," says Suttill.
"Espargaro remains a solid leader but his 2023 was far more error-filled than his supremely good 2022 campaign."
"Simply put, I'm not convinced the two have the season-long consistency in them to place them higher than those I've ranked ahead," says Jack Cozens, who put them fourth, "but their combined peaks are enough together to put them ahead of two Ducati line-ups. I desperately want to see more of those peaks from Vinales in 2024, though."
Espargaro and Aprilia itself both being "blossoming underdogs" plus Vinales being "infuriatingly incapable of turning his speed into results" leave Beer perplexed about how good Aprilia actually is.
"Is this a bike that could win a title in different hands, or will we find out Espargaro and Vinales have actually been flattering it?" he wonders.
Patterson's pretty sure this is a case of 'good enough for now' but expects that Aprilia will be an aggressive shopper in the next rider market.
"2024 should in theory be another season spent polishing Aprilia’s RS-GP into a more complete title-fighting bike, and it's got the right riders to do that," he says.
"There’s a big reshuffle coming at the end of the season, and there will be changes then - but for now, sticking with what they’ve got seems to be the right way forward."
4 PRAMAC DUCATI
Jorge Martin, Franco Morbidelli
Up two places from 2023
Best ranking: 3rd (Toby Moody)
Worst ranking: 7th (Valentin Khorounzhiy)
Another line-up of extreme contrast.
Endless faith in 2023 title chaser Jorge Martin ("supremely quick" - Reynolds, "elite" - Khorounzhiy, "a fighter" - Moody, "a sure bet for title contention" - Patterson).
Absolute bafflement ("who knows!" - Moody) about how Franco Morbidelli might stack up after his poor works Yamaha stint.
"It's just a question of Morbidelli's adaptation and whether the time at the works Yamaha team (and the knee injury that preceded it) has permanently changed his ceiling as a MotoGP performer," says Khorounzhiy.
"His peers seem convinced it hasn't, but it's still not something you can feel too sure about."
Beer's concern about Morbidelli is that the late-2020 magic behind his career-high championship runner-up spot is "the anomaly in his MotoGP story, one that's mostly been about being beaten by Fabio Quartararo" and a product of "right bike, right time" as he thrived on the rider-friendly old-spec Yamaha in upside-down season.
"Nothing in the three years since then offers convincing evidence that Morbidelli deserves to be stepping onto what will probably still be the best bike on the grid," he concludes.
3 GRESINI DUCATI
Alex Marquez, Marc Marquez
Up 8 places from 2023
Best ranking: 1st (Simon Patterson)
Worst ranking: 6th (Matt Beer)
Speaking of lopsided line-ups, six-time MotoGP champion and modern legend Marc Marquez joins his brother Alex at Gresini.
Marc's sheer quality launches this pair to the top of Patterson's list - though Alex plays a big part in that placing too.
"Any team with Marc Marquez onboard is automatically going to be highly ranked, and the fact that he’s paired with his brother Alex boosts them to the top because Alex had a strong season of his own this year," he says.
"It seems that the elder Marquez hasn’t wasted any time adapting himself to the Ducati, and with Alex ending 2023 very strongly indeed, they should upset a few more established Ducati riders in 2024."
For others, Alex is too much of a question mark.
"I debated placing this at #1 but Alex Marquez hasn't proven to be a convincingly consistent frontrunner yet," says Suttill, who went for second place.
But others think we might get a different Alex in this situation, given how close the siblings are and how well they might collaborate as team-mates.
"Marc is obviously outrageously good, and I’m banking on him raising his brother’s game," reckons Reynolds.
Only Beer would admit to Marc doubts.
"This is a bit contradictory given I think I've put him obscenely high in the top 10 riders' poll for our podcast and I'm pretty sure I've gone into every season of The Race's existence (until now) predicting a Marquez title win regardless of how broken he and Honda are, but 2019's a long time ago now," he says.
"After so much pain and turmoil and up against a new generation, can we be certain Marquez is still a class apart? And with four MotoGP seasons behind him now, Alex should be more convincing than he is, and definitely more consistent."
For Freeman, it's pretty straightforward.
"You've got Marc Marquez. His team-mate - whoever it is - only needs to be able to keep the bike upright to create a combination that features highly," he argues. "And Alex is well capable of being more than that."
Pecco Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini
Down one place from 2023
Best ranking: 1st (Toby Moody)
Worst ranking: 4th (Valentin Khorounzhiy)
You might expect a lot of 'one great rider, one big question mark' opinions on Ducati as well given there were 14 championship places and 383 points between champion Pecco Bagnaia and team-mate Enea Bastianini this season.
But the fact Bastianini looked so good prior to 2023, was disrupted by two injuries in his first works Ducati season and showed what might still be possible with that out-of-the-blue Sepang win was a big factor in some 'benefit of the doubt' votes.
"The real strength of this pairing will only be revealed once we see what a full winter of rehabilitation and adaptation can do to repair Bastianini’s form after a punishing and somewhat humbling 2023 season," says Patterson.
Plenty of faith in Bagnaia: "Pecco is Pecco" - Reynolds, "the best unemotional rider" - Moody, "there's no questioning Bagnaia" - Patterson.
But it's not universal.
"Bagnaia's composure during the title run-in was impressive, as was Bastianini's Sepang victory," begins Suttill.
"But both will likely face far greater pressure next year with Marquez's Ducati debut and I'm unsure whether Bagnaia is up to it.
"Martin almost broke through on a satellite bike, it won't take much more for Marquez to do so."
Fabio Quartararo, Alex Rins
Up four places from 2023
Best ranking: 1st (Valentin Khorounzhiy, Glenn Freeman, Matt Beer, Jonny Reynolds, Josh Suttill, Jack Cozens)
Worst ranking: 8th (Simon Patterson)
"A filthy line-up that is likely to be a tier above the M1 bike next year, even if Yamaha works well in the off-season" - Khorounzhiy.
"Quartararo is absolute top-tier elite, and Rins is by far the most all-round 'back-up' rider among the teams that boast one of the superstars as their leader" - Freeman.
Several of our panellists thought they were making a bold leftfield pick by declaring that Yamaha replacing Morbidelli with Rins as Quartararo's team-mate turned its line-up into the best of the grid. Then they saw the scores and realised this was actually a majority view.
It's down to a combination of existing faith in Quartararo and excitement at what Rins might do on an improving Yamaha.
"Rins has long been underrated for me," says Cozens. "His inclusion in the LCR line-up was the only reason I had it seventh and not 10th/11th last year - and if the Yamaha is more compliant than the Honda (surely a given) and he has an influence on its development direction I see no reason why more performances such as his audacious Austin victory on the truculent RC213V aren't possible."
"It won't be reflected at all in the 2024 standings but this is the strongest line-up on the grid by a very slender margin," adds Suttill.
"Marc Marquez aside, Quartararo is MotoGP's most complete rider. With the right bike he'd have the edge on Bagnaia, as much of 2022 showed.
"Rins's heroics during his brief time riding a Honda were a further reminder of the stellar, versatile rider he's morphed into."
But there were two dissenters - Patterson and Moody.
It's not that Patterson had negative feelings about the Yamaha line-up, just muted expectations for it ("don’t be surprised if they deliver the odd shock performance" was as strong as he got, while praising the hiring of Rins as "a really good move" given the "valuable insights" he'll have).
Moody was more pointed - and it's 2021 champion Quartararo he's unsure about.
"Fabio needs to stop moaning about how he isn’t going to battle for honours in 2024," he says.
"Positive thoughts from the top will work wonders through the minds of those at the coal face.
"Rins is a fighter. He may well be the team leader within a couple of races."