The 2020 MotoGP season is a few short weeks away with the first official test at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia in early February.
Yet again, the underlying question at the forefront of everyone’s mind is, can anyone sustain a real championship challenge to Marc Marquez.
Marquez claimed his sixth MotoGP crown in seven seasons and eighth world championship altogether in 2019.
Certainly the 26 year-old was pushed to his absolute limits at times by Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins and rookie sensation Fabio Quartararo, but the consistency is what has separated the Repsol Honda rider from the rest of the field dating back to 2016.
Honda create history with Marquez double in 2020
With Jorge Lorenzo announcing his retirement at the Valencia Grand Prix, the Japanese manufacturer acted quickly in finding a replacement for the five-time champion.
Honda will once again be heavily relying on Marc to claim a fifth championship in succession, while Alex will be aiming to underline his potential with rookie of the year honors.
Vinales and Rossi lead Factory Yamaha charge once again
Vinales and Valentino Rossi will be hoping to continue the upturn in form from the second half of the 2019 season with a more consistent title challenge.
It was a tough year for Rossi who went winless for the second straight season, but Vinales showed the bikes true potential with victories in Assen and Malaysia.
Both riders are contracted until the end of the 2020 season, and with retirement looming for the 40 year-old Italian, a strong season could decide whether he returns or not.
Vinales is perhaps the more likely to challenge Marquez for the championship out of the two, and could dictate who Yamaha prioritize if he can start the season well.
Can Dovizioso go one better for Ducati
Andrea Dovizioso and Danilo Petrucci return to the Italian team in 2020 with consistency being the main objective for both.
Ducati are difficult to beat at circuits that favor their bike such as Losail, Mugello and Catalunya to name a few, and will likely be the benchmark yet again when it comes to top end speed and power in 2020.
Dovizioso has finished runner up the last three years, and with MotoGP arguably the most competitive it has ever been, it will take a monumental effort to prize away the championship for the first time in his career.
For Petrucci it was a brilliant first half to last season with victory in Mugello topping it off. However the second half of the year was a struggle for Petrucci who’s last podium was at Catalunya.
Following the 2020 season, most of the top riders can change teams, so Petrucci will need a much stronger season if he is to retain his seat.
Spanish pair Rins and Mir look to build on Suzuki success
Suzuki made huge strides in 2019 with Rins taking victory at the Circuit of the Americas and Silverstone.
While his early season championship challenge faded through the middle part of the year, Rins showed that Suzuki now have the bike and talent to launch a title tilt for the foreseeable future.
On the other side of the garage is teammate Joan Mir who recovered from a tough opening few rounds to consistently score top ten finishes towards the back end of 2019.
Mir will be expected to improve going into his second full season and if those steps are made, Suzuki could undoubtedly improve on their two wins from a year ago.
Can Petronas Yamaha go even better in year two
After what was simply a stunning year for the debutante team with Franco Morbidelli and Qaurtararo, expectations in 2020 will be through the roof.
Quartararo’s speed was on show for everyone to see from the word go, and put together a stunning season in which he secured seven podiums in total and pushed eventual champion Marquez all the way particularly at Misano and Buriram.
The young Frenchman will be expected to put forward a championship challenge with full factory equipment at his disposal, while Morbidelli was good in his own right and will look to close the gap.
The only aspect missing for the Petronas team was a victory in 2019, but with both riders in their second year with the team, surely victory is a matter of when not if.
LCR unchanged with Crutchlow and Nakagami
LCR Honda enter 2020 with Cal Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami as their riders for the third consecutive year.
Last season was a tough one for Crutchlow by his high standards who started with a podium at Qatar and showed top three pace consistently during the first quarter of the year.
However, like other Honda riders except Marquez, Crutchlow found the bike difficult to ride and subsequently couldn’t get the best from it as the season wore on.
The Brit’s next podium came in Germany before a second place at Phillip Island. Nakagami on the other hand was enjoying the 2018 Honda’s smoother style which suited the Japanese man.
2019 was Nakagami’s best season in the top class and after taking the last three rounds off to recover from shoulder surgery, he will hope to build on those positive results.
Can Miller push his way into the factory Ducati picture for 2021
Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia will continue as the Pramac Ducati duo in 2020.
Miller put together his best year in MotoGP in 2019, so much so, that the team were on the verge of promoting him to the factory seat ahead of Petrucci for this year.
The Australian was a consistent podium challenger especially during the second half of the year, and with another strong season will be a leading contender for the factory ride for 2021.
Bagnaia showed a few bright spots during the year, but the number one target for the 2018 Moto2 champion will be to close the gap to his teammate.
Espargaro joined by South African Binder at KTM
Pol Espargaro will look to build on a brilliant 2019 season as the lead rider for the Austrian team with Brad Binder joining him.
KTM’s huge steps forward in 2019 allowed Espargaro to finally demonstrate the talent that was so highly regarded from his Moto2 days, where he was a constant challenger to Marquez.
The Spanish rider was a regular top ten finisher last season and will be hoping KTM can make a further step in the right direction.
Helping this come to fruition will be the addition of Binder. The South African had a strong second half to the year that saw him reduce a 50 point gap down to three to eventual champion Marquez.
Binder replaces Johann Zarco and will look to challenge the above mentioned Spaniard for rookie of the year honors.
Uncertainty looms for Aprilia
Team leader Aleix Espargaro will once again lead the Aprilia project in 2020, but it is yet to be confirmed who will ride alongside the Spanish rider.
Teammate Andrea Iannone was provisionally suspended at the end of 2019 for a positive anti-doping anabolic test putting his future in doubt.
While Iannone and the team wait to hear the final verdict on whether the suspension will be upheld, the team has stated that they want Iannone to participate in next month’s Malaysia test.
If that option falls through, the team could turn to the obvious replacement in current test rider Bradley Smith, while Aprilia have also been in talks with Karel Abraham.
Zarco finds a home alongside Rabat at Avintia
Zarco looked to be on the way out of MotoGP for the 2020 season at least after his disappointing first season with KTM.
After his best performance of the year at Misano, the Austrian team released the two-time Moto2 champion. The relationship never clicked between rider and team leaving to the inevitable split.
Zarco then replaced Nakagami on the Honda for the last three races, and immediately returned to the sort of form we are accustomed to seeing.
Zarco will replace Abraham who decided to retire after the conformation of Zarco’s move.
The Frenchman will be alongside Tito Rabat who will continue with the Reale Avintia team for the third consecutive year.
Excitement ahead for Tech 3 with Oliveira and Lecuona
One of the more exciting teams to watch in 2020 will be the Tech 3 KTM team with rookie Iker Lecuona lining up alongside Miguel Oliveira.
Tech 3 boss Herve Poncharal is known for spotting talent and took everyone by surprise at the end of last season when the team signed Lecuona.
The 20 year-old replaced Hafizh Syahrin for the final round at Valencia and although he crashed during the race, Lecuona showed huge upside throughout the weekend.
Oliveira on the other hand was very consistent during his first year before undergoing successful shoulder surgery after the Japanese Grand Prix.
The former Moto2 runner-up will look to build on a positive first year and help improve the Tech 3 project.