until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Qatar Grand Prix 2024 MotoGP rider rankings

by Simon Patterson
10 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP is finally back in action, following an exciting weekend of action at Lusail where some of the 2024 pre-season favourites delivered on their potential and a few others looked to be in real trouble.

Both reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia and his biggest 2023 rival Jorge Martin left Qatar with a win apiece, but Bagnaia's victory in Sunday's main race means he holds a slim advantage in the title fight already. Behind them, KTM had a strong opening weekend with a double podium for Brad Binder and a stunning premier class debut for Tech3 Gas Gas rookie Pedro Acosta.

But there was trouble for plenty of others, with the likes of 2023 championship podium finisher Marco Bezzecchi nowhere near the sharp end and with pre-race favourite Aleix Espargaro taking a dramatic backwards slump in Sunday’s main event.

That, of course, means lots of metrics to use to rank the grid on performances in the first rider rankings of 2024.

Scoring the grid in order based on their performances not just in the main event but also Saturday’s sprint race, it’s obviously all subjective - but comes not just from their final race result but takes into account things like the machinery they’re on and the pre-race expectations from them.

1 Pedro Acosta

Started: 8th Sprint: 8th Race: 9th

With the amount of hype around Acosta coming into this weekend, it would have been no surprise at all if the rookie had cracked a little under it. But instead, he very much rose to the occasion with a pair of stellar rides.

Sure, he burned out his tyres on Sunday scrapping with Marc Marquez, but he’s also managed to make an immediate impression on MotoGP, one that will undoubtedly already have rewritten expectations for both this season and his future.

2 Pecco Bagnaia

Started: 5th Sprint: 4th Race: 1st

As far as good starts to your title defence go, they don't come too much more encouraging than a decent sprint result and a strong win on Sunday to end up with the points lead.

Bagnaia’s win was a masterclass and, while he might have been missing something on Saturday, he won’t be too concerned about it as long as he’s able to continue running like he did the day after, with metronomic pace that frankly should be concern his rivals.

3 Marc Marquez

Started: 6th Sprint: 5th Race: 4th

Coming into the opening weekend of his first premier class season ever not on a Honda, there was an unimaginable amount of pressure on Marquez - so for the eight-time world champion to come out swinging at one of his least favourite circuits very much suggests that he’s back on a path to glory.

A podium would have been the cherry on top but it wasn’t necessary to establish that he’s back on the rise.

4 Brad Binder

Started: 4th Sprint: 2nd Race: 2nd

Given the pretty exceptional pace that Bagnaia brought to Sunday’s main race, it’s hard to see how anyone could have stopped him and, with Jorge Martin the undisputed king of sprints, being best of the rest on both occasions means that Lusail wasn’t far away from being the perfect weekend for KTM racer Brad Binder.

It’s the sort of strong start to a season that a title challenge needs, and there’ll be plenty of eyes watching in Portugal to see if it’s sustainable.

5 Jorge Martin

Started: 1st Sprint: 1st Race: 3rd

The 2023 championship runner-up’s Qatar results really don’t warrant a position as low in the rankings this week - he’s fifth only as a victim of circumstance, because his weekend was in reality a very good one.

A sprint victory is more of an expectation than a surprise these days for him, but he also did a very good job of both remaining in touch with the battle for the win and, perhaps more importantly, of knowing when was the right time to settle for a decent start to his season rather than doing something reckless trying to get back past Binder.

6 Alex Marquez

Started: 9th Sprint: 7th Race: 6th

Coming into 2024, all the attention has very much been on Alex Marquez’s brother and new team-mate Marc - and that’s something that continued after Sunday’s race, even though the younger of the pair deserves his own credit for a very strong start to the season too.

Never quite in podium contention but being within touching distance of it in both races bodes very well indeed for the prospect of Marquez upgrading some of his sprint victories into wins proper this year.

7 Aleix Espargaro

Started: 2nd Sprint: 3rd Race: 8th

There was so much pre-race potential for Espargaro on Sunday. But while he might have questioned what role his rear tyre played in him failing to deliver on that, there’s a significant part of the blame that also lies with Aprilia’s ongoing inability to build bikes that launch as well as its rivals'.

Essentially in reverse gear as soon as the lights went out, it was a disaster from there and even with the best of rubber, the promised win was always going to be a big ask. Disappointing for Espargaro, but there’s clearly still work that needs to be done.

8 Enea Bastianini

Started: 3rd Sprint: 6th Race: 5th

The problem with Bastianini’s performance at Lusail was all of his own making - because both pre-season testing form and qualifying pace hinted that there would be more to come than a pair of top sixes.

While that’s a completely respectable score considering who was in front of him, it’s still not exactly the title-fighting form that many expected and that - more importantly - rivals Bagnaia and Martin were able to deliver. There’s still some work to be done for the factory racer.

9 Johann Zarco

Started: 13th Sprint: 16th Race: 12th

On a weekend where Honda’s lead factory rider Joan Mir left the circuit pleased with his own results, the fact that new signing Zarco managed to beat him in Sunday’s main event bodes very well indeed for his future with satellite squad LCR.

Zarco clearly adapted very quickly to the RC213V in testing and while he didn't look impressive per se, he certainly did show signs of a reasonably strong start to 2024, especially as those results will help maintain his new role as crucial to Honda’s roadmap to recovery.

10 Fabio Quartararo

Started: 16th Sprint: 12th Race: 11th

The fact that 2021 champion Quartararo was as disappointed as he was with 11th after the race was very much a demonstration that while the Yamaha M1 might have lost its way, he hasn’t lost his own motivation.

He’s desperately screaming for more from the factory, but while it might not be there yet, his passion still is. That was clear from a ride that still ended up best among the concession-status teams.

11 Fabio Di Giannantonio

Started: 7th Sprint: DNF Race: 7th

Given both his pre-season testing form and the excellent race win that he delivered the last time MotoGP visited Lusail only a few months ago, it’s quite hard not to be disappointed with a rather middling performance from Di Giannantonio.

His Sunday race was solid, especially after the beating he took in the sprint race’s wholly unexplained highside, but he never really demonstrated the level from last November that we thought he would be able to bring.

12 Joan Mir

Started: 17th Sprint: 15th Race: 13th

It might not exactly look like an amazing weekend for a world champion, but Mir definitely left Qatar more content than he arrived, after the discovery that this year’s Honda works better than expected in race trim.

Mir burned out his tyres in the final laps in an effort to win the ‘Japanese Cup’ (as he himself christened it) battle against Yamaha, but was still cheerful about what Honda's got left to find in 2024, especially with new parts arriving for Portimao.

13 Franco Morbidelli

Started: 22nd Sprint: 20th Race: 18th

After missing the entire pre-season thanks to training injuries, all Morbidelli had to do on effectively his first proper time on the Pramac Ducati was just finish every session safe and happy.

He did more than that in the end, dialling up the pace every time he went out on the machine, and while it might not have generated headline results he nonetheless ticked the box for a successful debut.

14 Maverick Vinales

Started: 10th Sprint: 9th Race: 10th

It feels a bit mean to have Vinales ranked so lowly given his results - but the reality is that the first person you have to beat is your team-mate, and it never ever looked like he was going to be able to come close to that at Lusail.

There was a ton of potential, according to the hints we saw in testing, but it all ended in a painfully typical way: with Vinales very much left scratching his head trying to figure out how it had all slipped away from him. He's someone who certainly needs to bounce back stronger in Portugal next time out.

15 Alex Rins

Started: 20th Sprint: 17th Race: 16th

Considering it was Rins's first weekend on the Yamaha and he was still carrying the lingering effects of his horrific Mugello crash last season, his results weren’t too disappointing.

Outside the points, yes, but being within touching distance of highly experienced team-mate Quartararo was enough to suggest that should the bike get back towards its previous form this season, we can expect to see Rins improving with it.

16 Raul Fernandez

Started: 12th Sprint: 14th Race: DNF

There’s maybe no one who came into this weekend - and in fact this season - with so much potential and then failed to deliver any of it than Raul Fernandez, after a largely disastrous start to the season for the Trackhouse Aprilia racer.

Sure, his Sunday race was a write-off as a mechanical issue on the grid likely cost him the chance to go faster, but the rest of the weekend was far from stellar. More work definitely needed.

17 Taka Nakagami

Started: 19th Sprint: 19th Race: 19th

It already felt throughout testing that 2024 might be the season where Nakagami’s performances are going to be found out, as he continues to wallow towards the back of the grid as his fellow Honda racers improve.

While he might not have had the worst finishes among the four machines, he wasn’t anywhere near the potential of the bike either.

18 Miguel Oliveira

Started: 14th Sprint: 13th Race: 15th

With an Aprilia on the podium in the sprint, another scoring points in both races and his team-mate ahead of him while they were on track together, leaving Qatar with a solitary point represents a bit of a shocking start to the season for Oliveira.

Sure, he had a long lap penalty to serve in Sunday’s race (earned during his last visit to Lusail in November), but even without that it’s hard to imagine that he was going to be setting the world alight.

19 Luca Marini

Started: 21st Sprint: 21st Race: 20th

Given Marini had a few moments during pre-season testing where he was able to shine on the Honda, such a lowly position in both races was actually something of a surprise for him, especially as some of his fellow Honda racers had a pretty good opening weekend.

Marini was quick to blame a technical issue for Sunday’s result in particular, but that doesn’t detract significantly from the fact that he was essentially running in last for the whole weekend.

20 Augusto Fernandez

Started: 18th Sprint: 18th Race: 17th

The first person in racing you have to beat is always your team-mate - and when you’re struggling for performance and the rookie on the other side of the box is fighting for the podium in his first race, it’s a bad look.

The only silver lining for Fernandez from Qatar is that he believes he made progress on Sunday towards finding a solution to the issues that has plagued him all throughout testing - but that just means he absolutely has to step it up next time out.

21 Marco Bezzecchi

Started: 15th Sprint: 11th Race: 14th

For a rider who was a title contender twelve months ago to leave the opening round with just two points to his name is nothing short of a disaster.

The fact that Bezzecchi still hasn’t clicked with his new GP23 machine and is still struggling with the issues that others faced when the bike was new a year ago is troubling. Until he can turn things around regarding his corner entry performance, it’s going to be a tough, long time for him.

22 Jack Miller

Started: 11th Sprint: 10th Race: 21st

If this hasn’t gone down as one of the worst weekends of Miller’s career, then he’s really missing how significant it was for his future. What we saw was a fairly standard outing for the Australian: a bit of performance on show in qualifying and practice, followed by a backwards slide in the sprint and a crash in the main race.

But with team-mate Binder on the podium twice and rookie Acosta easily outclassing him, the end result is a very difficult to explain situation.

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