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Analysis

What would MotoGP 2023 look like without sprint races?

The biggest change to the sporting regulations in MotoGP for 2023 has been the introduction of sprint races at every event.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Sprint races have marked one of the biggest single format changes in grand prix motorcycle racing’s more than 70-year history.

While reviews of the sprint format were mixed from the riders to begin with, after eight rounds criticisms of the half-distance races have faded away.

For the most part, the sprints have added an exciting new dynamic to race weekends and have generally proved to be of good entertainment value.

The extra 12 points on offer for a sprint win on grand prix weekends now have also made a significant impact on the championship picture as MotoGP settles into its summer break.

At the end of the Dutch GP weekend, reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia holds a 35-point lead over Pramac Ducati’s Jorge Martin.

2023 MotoGP standings after eight rounds

1. Francesco Bagnaia – 194
2. Jorge Martin – 159
3. Marco Bezzecchi - 158
4. Brad Binder – 114
5. Johann Zarco – 109
6. Luca Marini – 98
7. Jack Miller – 79
8. Aleix Espargaro – 77
9. Fabio Quartararo – 64
10. Alex Marquez - 63

As the above results show, the top three in the championship are fairly close together before a big jump of 44 points to find fourth-placed Brad Binder.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marco Bezzecchi, VR46 Racing Team, Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marco Bezzecchi, VR46 Racing Team, Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

At the halfway stage of the 2022 season, Bagnaia was 91 points adrift of Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo having suffered four DNFs in the opening 10 rounds.

A heroic comeback ultimately allowed the Ducati rider to overturn this and win the championship. But in 2023, the sprints have proven to be a major ally to Bagnaia.

A crash while running second in the Argentina GP, a tumble while leading the Americas GP and a collision while fighting for third with Aprilia’s Maverick Vinales in the French GP led to Bagnaia losing a potential 61 points.

Based on grand prix results alone, Bagnaia’s points tally for the first eight rounds would be 120 – a stunning victory/second/victory in the Italy/Germany/Netherlands triple-header ensuring he would have held a points lead if 2023 featured no sprint races.

But Bagnaia’s lead in the standings would be just three points over Bezzecchi, whose double grands prix victories in 2023 would have put him second over Martin – the Spaniard’s back-to-back seconds in France and Italy, and his German GP win, putting him on 100 points.

Bagnaia has been the strongest sprint rider in 2023, winning three of them and finishing on the podium in all but one – with 74 of his total 194 points haul courtesy of sprint results.

Martin has two sprint victories to his credit and three other podiums (accounting for 59 of his 159 point) while Bezzecchi has one win and two rostrums (accounting for 41 of his 158 points).

Binder has also benefited greatly from the sprints, having won two of them, scoring 47 points on Saturdays alone. That’s just 20 fewer than he has scored from grand prix results in 2023.

This would drop him to sixth in the standings behind Johann Zarco and Luca Marini based on pre-2023 rules.

Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Sprints have made little difference to Fabio Quartararo’s 2023 season, with the Yamaha rider scoring 56 of his total 64 points this year in grands prix. Quartararo has scored just eight points on Saturdays in 2023, with a third at Assen his best sprint result.

For Marc Marquez, sprints have been the only reason he has registered any points in 2023.

Crashing out of the Portuguese GP and subsequently missing the next three rounds, before returning to crash out of the French and Italian GPs before missing Germany and the Netherlands with injury, the Honda rider has scored nothing on Sundays in 2023.

All 15 of his points after eight rounds have been from sprint results, with Marquez third in Portugal, fifth in France and seventh in Italy.

He is the only full-time rider to have started a grand prix this season who hasn’t scored on Sunday. Iker Lecuona, who replaced Marquez at Jerez and stood in for Joan Mir at Assen, has scored nothing in either of the sprints and GPs he started.

With points only offer to those in the top nine in a sprint, 11 riders – Augusto Fernandez, Fabio Di Giannantonio, Takaaki Nakagami, Lorenzo Savadori, Jonas Folger, Raul Fernandez, Michele Pirro, Danilo Petrucci, Joan Mir, Stefan Bradl and Lecuona – have not scored on Saturdays.

2023 championship top 10 based only on grands prix results

1. Francesco Bagnaia – 120
2. Marco Bezzecchi - 117
3. Jorge Martin – 100
4. Johann Zarco – 90
5. Luca Marini – 71
6. Brad Binder – 67
7. Aleix Espargaro – 56
8. Fabio Quartararo – 56
9. Jack Miller – 54
10. Alex Marquez - 54

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