Even a single weekend can make all the difference in the world to a rider's prospects in the fickle and excitable world of MotoGP - which means 12 months is a veritable lifetime.
Last season in Moto2 and Moto3 will have had an enormous impact on how premier-class teams view their potential rookie options, and while so will 2024, junior riders will only have a very limited time to add to (or spoil) their bonafides before much of the 2025 MotoGP grid is set in stone.
And with MotoGP as temperamental as it is when it comes to rider value (and with media also being that way, of course), the below list of the top prospects on the road to MotoGP is a significant departure from its predecessor feature from just over a year ago.
The #4 and #3 picks from that list are in MotoGP already, but the #2 and the #1 picks aren't - while also having missed the cut in this year's edition, the former (Alonso Lopez) through being showed up by his team-mate and the latter (Izan Guevara) through a near total write-off Moto2 rookie campaign that couldn't help but create doubt.
With Guevara in a rut and needing to prove himself, and with Pedro Acosta having vacated the 'next big thing' title through his inevitable MotoGP promotion, there's a new leading prospect in town - but many more riders who could potentially usurp him with just a string of good results.
Our MotoGP writers Simon Patterson and Valentin Khorounzhiy have amassed their list of the 10 riders with the most premier-class stock and potential across this year's Moto3 and Moto2 grids - having to square off several disagreements and making some painful cuts along the way.
10 Ai Ogura
Last year: An anticipated title push for the Japanese was immediately destroyed by injury, and it took him much of the season to get himself back to anywhere near the title-contending Ogura from the year before - while also ensuring that the Idemitsu-sponsored LCR Honda MotoGP ride that had long looked earmarked for Ogura remains in the possession of Takaaki Nakagami.
This year: Having spent five seasons with Honda Team Asia, Ogura hasn't just swapped those familiar surroundings for a ride with the MT Helmets - MSI team, but will also campaign a Boscoscuro instead of the familiar Kalex.
Simon's view: As recently as a season ago, Ogura's MotoGP shot looked a sure thing. However, in yet more proof of the theory that you never turn down a chance when offered it, his dip in form since then, Honda’s increasing reliance on the experience of current racer Nakagami and the rise of other hot young Japanese prospects means that the 2022 Moto2 title contender might have left it too late.
Val's view: He's still plenty young enough to make a MotoGP promotion happen - but may have been better-served being on that LCR Honda bike already, for all of its rider-throwing tendencies.
9 Jaume Masia
Last year: Masia won the Moto3 title at the sixth time of asking (though had been a race winner in all but one of those previous campaigns), securing the crown with a round to spare in much-debated circumstances.
This year: Finally with a Moto2 ticket in hand, riding for a SAG team that hasn't made too many waves since a strong 2020 with Remy Gardner, Masia had a strong initial contact with Moto2 in post-season testing.
Val's view: Masia's title for me wasn't the case of a mediocre rider using an experience edge to look good, but that of a good-from-the-start rider finally escaping stagnation. But age isn't on his side and he'll need to do much more for a MotoGP case than squeak out a Moto3 title in questionable circumstances.
Simon's view: I’m very much of the belief that Moto3 title or not, Masia still has an awful lot left to prove. He's another one of Leopard Honda’s title winners - and while Joan Mir might have gone on to great things, being in the same company as names like Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Danny Kent and Dennis Foggia hardly inspires confidence ahead of Masia's intermediate-class step.
8 Sergio Garcia
Last year: Garcia was by far the most performant of the three Moto3 title rivals graduating to Moto2 - scoring more than peers Guevara and Foggia combined. But he had a scuffed end to the season - even before highsiding off and getting hit at speed by a rival's bike in the Valencia finale, in which he thankfully avoided serious injury.
This year: Garcia will be Ogura's Moto2 team-mate and thus part of the burgeoning Boscoscuro ranks.
Val's view: His first Moto2 campaign wasn't the greatest in isolation, but was a roaring success compared to Guevara and Foggia - and the previous record is there to make a real MotoGP push.
Simon's view: There’s obviously something of an effort going on at the minute to diversify the grid and to see fewer Spaniards and Italians on it - but Garcia has every chance to buck that trend and find a space if he builds on his progression so far. Talent will always trump passport when it comes down to it, and that’s a good thing in his case.
7 Dani Holgado
Last year: The Moto3 sophomore had led the Moto3 standings from the end of round 1 to the end of round 14 but finally didn't even make the top four in the standings, his form petering out badly as mistakes crept in and qualifying form dipped precariously.
This year: Holgado is staying with Tech3 and KTM in Moto3 for what should be a title tilt mulligan.
Val's view: I'm still very convinced Holgado is legit - he's got the past pedigree, he led more laps than anyone in Moto3 last year, and he's still on the younger side in the category. But he needs to iron out the messy-ness to stand out more in that KTM/Gas Gas/Husqvarna crop of young talent.
Simon's view: KTM will absolutely want to keep ahold of Holgado if his 2023 Moto3 season is anything to go by, and being under its wing should do him well when it comes to smoothing out the rough edges that remain.
6 Deniz Oncu
Last year: Oncu finally became a Moto3 race winner in 2023, and mounted a respectable title challenge - but was hindered by the fact he almost never strung two championship-calibre results in a row.
This year: Oncu remains with the super-strong KTM Ajo team for his move to Moto2 - a category where he may feel more at ease after having felt disadvantaged by his height/weight in lightweight-class competition.
Simon's view: Oncu is everything that MotoGP needs. Loud, brash, aggressive on track and from a country where there’s a nascent fanbase just waiting to be tapped into, it’ll come as a huge shock if the powers that be don’t do everything in their power to turbocharge him onto a KTM RC16 soon. Of course, first he’ll have to prove his worth in Moto2, but he showed last year that he’s more than just brute force and has the talent to be fast in the middleweight class as well.
Val's view: An Ajo Moto2 ticket suggests KTM has a fair bit of faith in the Turkish prospect, and he's certainly been noticeable in Moto3 - in 2023 much more for better than for worse. His qualifying record in the class in particular bodes well.
5 Ayumu Sasaki
Last year: A frontrunner in all but a handful of races in 2023, Sasaki nonetheless only got his win in the Valencia finale - by which time his title bid had already been extinguished, with the aid of controversial rival team tactics, the round before.
This year: Sasaki will ride for the Yamaha-partnered VR46 operation in Moto2, suddenly giving the Japanese brand - which also employs his good friend Fabio Quartararo - a potential soon-to-be-MotoGP-quality Japanese prospect.
Simon's view: Right now, Sasaki’s biggest downfall is the length of time that it’s taken him to morph into a genuine title contender. But, even if he didn’t lift the crown in 2023, he came close enough to remind the world of his talent, and now very much inside the fold of a Japanese manufacturer. Both the factory and the series will do everything in their power to create a natural successor to Nakagami out of him,
Val's view: Watching weekend-to-weekend, Sasaki felt like the quickest rider in Moto3 in 2023. But it having been his seventh Moto3 season is impossible to overlook for me - he was considerably lower on my side of the ranking and, while my hat is off to him re: 2023, I struggle to believe he is as viable a premier-class option as his erstwhile Moto3 title rivals.
4 Collin Veijer
Last year: Beaten to the 2022 Red Bull Rookies Cup title by Jose Rueda, Veijer largely outshone (the also reasonably impressive) Rueda as they stepped up to the world championship scene, evolving into a regular frontrunner by the end of his debut season.
This year: With team-mate Sasaki moving up, Veijer should now spearhead the efforts of the Husqvarna-branded Intact GP team in Moto3.
Val's view: Veijer's almost-linear 2023 progression from mid-pack to consistently-at-the-front was impossible not to take note of, but while I've put him into my top 10 and left out Rueda I wouldn't be too surprised if the Spaniard turns the tide of that particular battle this year.
Simon's view: Veijer has a problem. You’d never know it from the stellar Moto3 performances that he delivered in 2023, but he’s already a tall kid, and that’s obviously working against him on the small-capacity machinery. So if he can do what he’s doing right now on one of them, you’ve got to believe that he can be even faster when the prospect of something with a little more power is presented to him. Expect the Dutchman to make his Moto2 debut in 2025 and to be placed on a path to MotoGP soon after.
3 David Alonso
Last year: Alonso had a marvellous rookie season in the grand prix grid, showing himself particularly adept at the rough-and-tumble of Moto3 and very nearly rode a wave of momentum to a championship.
This year: Zero reason to change anything after a season like that - Alonso will continue to ride for Gas Gas Aspar in the lightweight class.
Simon's view: One of the most impressive rookie seasons we’ve seen in a while. Alonso's four wins would be a shock in a world where Acosta had not already changed all expectations in 2021. With most of Alonso’s big rivals already on the way to Moto2, another year in Moto3 was definitely the right path for him, especially as it gives him a clear route to the title.
Val's view: I'd like to see more from Alonso in qualifying - his season average grid spot was close to 13th. But that maybe makes his points-scoring all the more remarkable.
2 Tony Arbolino
Last year: Arbolino was an early-season headache for eventual Moto2 champion Acosta, but fell away considerably in the run-in - though did have enough in the rank to hang on to a runner-up spot in the championship.
This year: Having looked for a stretch of time in 2023 like the favourite to replace Fabio Di Giannantonio at Gresini (before Marc Marquez yanked that spot away and Di Giannantonio himself suddenly got really good), Arbolino committed to an extension with Marc VDS in the intermediate class.
Simon's view: There are two very good reasons why Arbolino is in my opinion all but destined for a MotoGP ride in the future. For one, he’s talented, both on and off the bike. Something of a showman as well as showing us in 2023 how fast he is, that’ll stand him well in the future - as will a relative dearth of Italian talent coming through the junior ranks at the minute. Ducati will snap him up sooner rather than later for one of its many bikes.
Val's view: It's now or never for 'Tiger Tony', I think. An early-2023 type season probably gets him over the line into the premier class. A late-2023 type season closes the book.
1 Fermin Aldeguer
Last year: After a year or so of suddenly being thoroughly overshadowed by his elder Speed Up team-mate Lopez, a rider he'd beaten to the European Moto2 title, Aldeguer didn't just turn things around - he absolutely caught fire. He reeled off four wins - some of them merely comfortable, some downright humiliating - to close out the intermediate-class season.
This year: Aldeguer's burst of form made him a no-brainer option amid late-season MotoGP rider market movements, but the cost of extricating him from an existing Speed Up deal for 2024 proved prohibitive. He remains with the team in Moto2 for this year, while there have been persistent reports that Ducati has already approached him with a factory contract/Pramac ride MotoGP combo for 2025.
Simon's view: All of the buzz right now is around Aldeguer, and it’s obviously no surprise at all given the way he ended his 2023 season. However, forced to wait for a MotoGP chance despite some end-of-year shenanigans from his management to throw his hat into the ring, it means that he’s faced with the unenviable job of performing for another season if he’s to find a way to step up.
That’s easier said than done, especially with double the number of Boscoscuro riders on next year’s grid. The performance of that bike in particular is a question mark against a sea of Kalex machines, and if someone like Garcia or Ogura can also make it work, it might make Aldeguer’s star burn just a little less brightly.
Val's view: Even accounting for the Boscoscuro factor, Aldeguer's late-2023 form was like watching a basketball player take shots from further and further away while the fans in attendance yelp as they sink one after another, after another. He's 18. He's a can't-miss, can't-second-guess-yourself prospect.