Rider ratings halfway through season, top 10 riders analysis, Francesco Bagnaia, Marc Marquez, Jorge Martin, Jack Miller, Fabio Quartararo

Sportem
Sportem
21 Min Read

There’s maths, and there’s MotoGP maths.

Consider: the 20-race 2024 calendar – assuming it gets to 20 races after the cancellation of Argentina, the postponement of India until 2025, the pushing back of Kazakhstan from last year to June 2024, and again to September if it goes ahead at all – means MotoGP’s first nine events have happened in 17 weeks, with the final 11 taking place in just 16 weeks from August to November.

With the recent races in the Netherlands and Germany on back-to-back weekends in a nine-week span, it’s time to take stock of 2024 and contemplate what we’ve learned after nine of 20 – maybe 19 – rounds this season.

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Has the madcap 2025 rider market overshadowed this season while shaping next? What are the prevailing – and emerging – narratives? And is the balance of 2024 set for a repeat of the Francesco Bagnaia vs. Jorge Martin battle from last year, one that raged all the way to the season finale in Valencia with plot twists nobody saw coming?

They’re all pertinent questions with undetermined answers, but what’s more clear are the riders who have shone – and stumbled – from Qatar to Germany. So far, 27 riders have appeared in at least one race, but who are Fox Sports’ top 10?

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To caveat what’s to come: it’s not simply a matter of listing the top 10 in the standings, as that removes context, expectations, perception and reputation, and doesn’t take into account what machine a rider is working with. So before we reveal who made the cut, there’s a short list of honourable (or dishonourable) mentions.

Brad Binder was an outstanding fourth in last year’s championship, but the ceiling of the KTM has been raised by rookie sensation Pedro Acosta this year. Aside from a first-race podium in Qatar, Binder – for all of his experience – has been shown the way by a rider who began the season as a teenager, making you ponder whether his 2023 – strong as it was – extracted the absolute maximum out of the RC16.

Ducati pair Franco Morbidelli and Marco Bezzecchi have each been handily beaten by their teammates (Jorge Martin and Fabio Di Giannantonio respectively). Morbidelli gets a pass of sorts after missing all of the pre-season and being nowhere near 100 per cent when he returned after a nasty off-season production bike crash in Portugal, while Bezzecchi – third in last year’s championship – has struggled with Michelin’s 2024-spec rear tyre this season, but parlayed his potential from 2023 to ink a factory Aprilia seat for next year.

Aprilia teammates Miguel Oliveira and Raul Fernandez have each shown flashes, but no more than that. Jack Miller’s 2024 – sacked by one KTM team and overlooked for another, jobless for 2025 and on track for his worst season since 2016 – makes him an easy omission.

That’s who missed out – so here’s who didn’t.

(Note: head-to-head with teammate statistics below only counts sprint races or Grands Prix where both teammates finished).

10. FABIO QUARTARARO (YAMAHA)

In the Yamaha vs. Honda fight at the back, Quartararo has been the one standout. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 44/15th

Best Grand Prix result: 7th (Portugal)

Best sprint race result: 5th (Spain)

Best qualifying: 8th (France)

Points compared to teammates: Quartararo 44, Alex Rins/Remy Gardner 8

Head-to-head with teammates in qualifying: Quartararo 6, Rins/Gardner 3

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Quartararo 4, Rins/Gardner 2

Head-to-head in sprint races: Quartararo 6, Rins/Gardner 0

Summary: The 2021 world champion in 10th when he’s 15th in the standings? It’s all about context. In the unofficial ‘Japanese Cup’ between Yamaha and Honda in the sport’s basement, Quartararo’s 44 points are equal to the combined total of Joan Mir, Johann Zarco, Takaaki Nakagami, Yamaha teammate Alex Rins and Luca Marini; three of that five-rider group are MotoGP race-winners, so it’s not like Quartararo is clobbering a cadre of no-hopers. Getting a Yamaha into the top 10 anywhere with eight Ducatis on the grid is an achievement, and the Frenchman’s quality can still intermittently transcend his machinery. Re-signed for two more years earlier in 2024, Quartararo means Yamaha at least have a rider with proven ability on board to lead it out of the abyss ahead of the 2027 regulatory reset. In the interim, he’ll continue to swipe occasional results of note and get the best out of what he has.

9. ALEX MARQUEZ (DUCATI)

Alex Marquez (right) shared the spotlight with his more famous sibling at the Sachsenring. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 79/10th

Best Grand Prix result: 3rd (Germany)

Best sprint race result: 7th (Qatar)

Best qualifying: 4th (Netherlands)

Points compared to teammate: Alex Marquez 79, Marc Marquez 166

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Alex Marquez 3, Marc Marquez 6

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Alex Marquez 1, Marc Marquez 6

Head-to-head in sprint races: Alex Marquez 0, Marc Marquez 7

Summary: Being considered one of 22 riders worthy of a MotoGP seat is quite the achievement, but being the second-best rider in your own team and family can’t be easy for Alex Marquez. It’s been his lot for a while now, of course, and he’s managed it well enough to already earn a two-year contract extension with Gresini for 2025-26. The younger Marquez is always there or thereabouts, never right at the front, but never underachieving on the machinery he’s riding. A German GP podium with his brother – the first siblings to finish together in the top three for 27 years – was a superb way to end a solid first half.

8. ALEIX ESPARGARO (APRILIA)

Espargaro revealed his retirement plans, then won the Catalunya sprint race. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 82/9th

Best Grand Prix result: 4th (Catalunya)

Best sprint race result: 1st (Catalunya)

Best qualifying: Pole (Catalunya)

Points compared to teammate: Espargaro 82, Maverick Vinales 125

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Espargaro 2, Vinales 6

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Espargaro 2, Vinales 3

Head-to-head in sprint races: Espargaro 2, Vinales 4

Summary: The grid’s oldest rider – Espargaro turns 35 later this month – announced at his beloved Catalunya that 2024 will be his final campaign before retirement, where he’ll take on Honda’s test rider role behind the scenes next season. Aprilia’s ‘Captain’ has had a curious career – his best season was 2022, the 12th of his 14-year tenure – and while the highs of two years ago aren’t as frequent, he’s still capable of occasional heroics, as the aforementioned Catalan round demonstrated. His 2024 stats took a hit after missing Assen and the Sachsenring after breaking a finger in the Netherlands, but it would surprise few if the high point of his farewell tour came at the fast and flowing Silverstone next time out, where he won last August.

7. ENEA BASTIANINI (DUCATI)

Qualifying performance remains elusive, but Bastianini’s race pace is formidable. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 155/4th

Best Grand Prix result: 2nd (Portugal, Italy)

Best sprint race result: 4th (France, Netherlands, Germany)

Best qualifying: Pole (Portugal)

Points compared to teammate: Bastianini 155, Francesco Bagnaia 212

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Bastianini 2, Bagnaia 7

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Bastianini 1, Bagnaia 7

Head-to-head in sprint races: Bastianini 2, Bagnaia 4

Summary: Sometimes, the eye test pre-empts the stats; in two seasons of MotoGP employing a half-distance sprint race on Saturdays, Bastianini – on the best bike in the field – is yet to even finish on the podium. It’s in keeping with “The Beast’s” reputation as being MotoGP’s foremost tyre whisperer, the diminutive Italian able to save grip on his Michelins to storm forward late in full-distance races and uncork lap times his opponents can’t live with on fading rubber. Qualifying remains a work in progress – he’s started three of nine Grands Prix outside of the first three rows – but you sense a first win of 2024 isn’t far away.

6. MAVERICK VINALES (APRILIA)

Vinales ran rings around the rest on MotoGP’s annual visit to Texas. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 125/5th

Best Grand Prix result: 1st (Americas)

Best sprint race result: 1st (Americas)

Best qualifying: Pole (Americas)

Points compared to teammate: Vinales 125, Aleix Espargaro 82

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Vinales 6, Espargaro 2

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Vinales 3, Espargaro 2

Head-to-head in sprint races: Vinales 4, Espargaro 2

Summary: Take away Austin, and the mercurial Vinales has averaged just 11 points per event in 2024 – yet scored 37 in Texas when he took pole, won the sprint and Grand Prix (the latter after falling outside of the top 10 on lap one) and set the fastest lap of the race. It was a victory that made him the first rider ever to win in the premier class with three different manufacturers, a stat that summed the Spaniard up perfectly – he’s fast enough for multiple employers to want him, yet inconsistent enough that he regularly moves on; he’s not finished better than fifth in a race since round three’s dominance. Related: Vinales shifts again to KTM next season, and could just as easily sign off on a three-year Aprilia adventure with a win or a slew of 15th-place head-scratching finishes.

5. FABIO DI GIANNANTONIO (DUCATI)

Di Giannantonio has rewritten his MotoGP story in the past nine months. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 92/8th

Best Grand Prix result: 4th (Netherlands)

Best sprint race result: 5th (Netherlands)

Best qualifying: 4th (France)

Points compared to teammate: Di Giannantonio 92, Marco Bezzecchi 53

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Di Giannantonio 7, Bezzecchi 2

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Di Giannantonio 4, Bezzecchi 2

Head-to-head in sprint races: Di Giannantonio 3, Bezzecchi 1

Summary: Five races from the end of 2023, you’d have got long odds on the Italian even being on this year’s grid, let alone as number five on this list. Too high? Arguably. But the 25-year-old has raised his game significantly since scoring his first podium at Phillip Island last October before beating Bagnaia for a famous win in Qatar, comprehensively outclassing Bezzecchi in his first season for the VR46 Ducati squad after Bezzecchi won three races and finished third in the championship last year. Only Marc Marquez has scored more of the riders on Ducati’s 2023 bike, and for results relative to expectation, ‘Diggia’ has no equal. Losing out on a factory Honda vacancy that eventually went to Luca Marini was the mother of all bullets to have dodged, too …

4. PEDRO ACOSTA (GASGAS)

Acosta arrived with big wraps – and immediately showed the hype was real. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 110/6th

Best Grand Prix result: 2nd (Americas)

Best sprint race result: 2nd (Spain)

Best qualifying: 2nd (Americas)

Points compared to teammate: Acosta 110, Augusto Fernandez 15

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Acosta 9, Fernandez 0

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Acosta 4, Fernandez 0

Head-to-head in sprint races: Acosta 7, Fernandez 1

Summary: Exceeding expectations when the pre-season hype was as high as Acosta’s is no surprise for the most highly-touted rookie since Marc Marquez, but shouldn’t be underestimated either. In nine races, he’s ended the MotoGP career of teammate Augusto Fernandez – who beat him to the 2022 Moto2 crown – and saw KTM sign him to replace Jack Miller for next year with more than half of this season to go. While Acosta’s results have slowed somewhat since scoring two podiums in his first three Grands Prix, he – at 20 – is the rider most likely to challenge Ducati’s dominance in the next few seasons. With a style that makes other riders shake their heads in wonderment and a maturity that belies his age, Acosta’s ceiling – for this year and the next 10 – looks limitless.

3. JORGE MARTIN (DUCATI)

Martin has been as volcanically fast as ever, but remains prone to profligacy. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 212/2nd

Best Grand Prix result: 1st (Portugal, France)

Best sprint race result: 1st (Qatar, Spain, France, Germany)

Best qualifying: Pole (Qatar, France, Italy, Germany)

Points compared to teammate: Martin 212, Franco Morbidelli 55

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Martin 9, Morbidelli 0

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Martin 5, Morbidelli 0

Head-to-head in sprint races: Martin 8, Morbidelli 0

Summary: Too low for the rider who has led the standings after seven of the nine rounds this year? Perhaps … but this is a ranking of the best riders of 2024, not the fastest. If it was the latter, it’s Martin first and daylight second; over one lap in qualifying, and in the short-form sprint races he’s owned (13 wins in 28 starts), nobody is quicker. But the old Martin traits remain from last year’s failed title tilt; he’s still prone to crashing out of the lead in races (Spain and Germany), still defiant afterwards, and still rides with a chip on his shoulder that propels him into championship contention, but could just as easily continue to be an anchor to his ultimate potential. Martin’s rollercoaster isn’t as steep this year it was last, but it’ll be interesting to see if he can reduce the gradient of his rises and falls while knowing, with an Aprilia move for 2025 imminent, this year’s championship chase might be his last chance for some time.

2. MARC MARQUEZ (DUCATI)

New colours, same Marquez: the six-time MotoGP champion has been rapid from day one on a Ducati. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 166/3rd

Best Grand Prix result: 2nd (Spain, France, Germany)

Best sprint race result: 2nd (Portugal, Americas, France, Catalunya, Italy)

Best qualifying: Pole (Spain)

Points compared to teammate: Marc Marquez 166, Alex Marquez 79

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Marc Marquez 6, Alex Marquez 3

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Marc Marquez 6, Alex Marquez 1

Head-to-head in sprint races: Marc Marquez 7, Alex Marquez 0

Summary: Like Martin, Marquez would be number one if this was another list; in a four-week period, the Spaniard rebooted the 2025 rider market, had a hand in Ducati losing three top-flight riders and two bikes for next year, and reminded anyone who may have forgotten that his power hasn’t faded with his results since his championship avalanche abated in 2019. On track, Marquez has been routinely brilliant, fighting with Bagnaia and Martin on a bike that’s a year older, not getting anywhere near the level of developmental upgrades, and with a team he barely knows. Podiums have been plentiful, but a win to end a drought that has stretched to nearly 1000 days hasn’t happened. Yet.

1. FRANCESCO BAGNAIA (DUCATI)

For a third straight year, Bagnaia has asserted himself as the sport’s benchmark. (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Points/championship position: 222/1st

Best Grand Prix result: 1st (Qatar, Spain, Catalunya, Italy, Netherlands, Germany)

Best sprint race result: 1st (Italy, Netherlands)

Best qualifying: Pole (Netherlands)

Points compared to teammate: Bagnaia 222, Enea Bastianini 155

Head-to-head with teammate in qualifying: Bagnaia 7, Bastianini 2

Head-to-head in Grands Prix: Bagnaia 7, Bastianini 1

Head-to-head in sprint races: Bagnaia 4, Bastianini 2

Summary: Six victories from nine Grands Prix this season shows what Bagnaia has done and why he’s atop this list, but the numbers only tell part of the story. The 27-year-old is in his sweet spot, wielding his class-leading race management, tactical nous and pure pace to devastating effect, and largely eliminating the self-inflicted wounds of past campaigns that made his world championships harder (2022) and closer (2023) than his speed suggested they should have been. After France, where he trailed Martin by 38 points, Bagnaia won four Grands Prix on the spin, led every lap at Mugello and Assen in both races, and showed why he’s become MotoGP’s modern-day metronome – and number one on this list.

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