Enea Bastianini: 0 points. Marc Marquez: 7 points. Aleix Espargarò: 12 points. Fabio Quartararo: 18 points. These were Pecco Bagnaia's main opponents before the start of the championship and after two Grands Prix (and 4 races) they all find themselves in choppy waters. Enea and Marc have been halted by injuries, Fabio continues to be hobbled by his Yamaha, Aleix has wasted good opportunities and his Aprilia suffered with the rain in Argentina.
The fact is that the world champion is 2nd in the championship with 41 points and is the only factory rider in the top 4 places in the standings. Ahead of him (by 9 points) is Bezzecchi, behind Zarco and Alex Marquez (6 and 8). On paper, they are all outsiders, not one of them a standings man. That’s the theory, even though practice in MotoGP can take all other forms.
What is certain is that Marquez and Bastianini - still injured - won't score points this weekend in Austin either and that Bagnaia has a duty to take advantage of the situation. No one can have any clear ideas about the championship after two GPs, but from what we have seen, the world champion remains the favourite for the title. Irrespective of the (unforgivable) mistake in the rain at Termas, Pecco proved he can be fast in all conditions, even when things didn't go the right way. He started with a brace of wins in Portugal, and in Argentina he had what it takes to straighten out a weekend that started badly. Despite the crash, the classification is still looking good for him.
Even because of the demerits of his adversaries.
Quartararo might even have the alibi of an M1 which is not at the level of the Ducati and Aprilia, but in the standings, he is 3 points behind his teammate Morbidelli. The bike might not be perfect, but the Frenchman could have achieved more while waiting for better times to come.
The same reasoning also applies to Espargarò, who has no problems of competitiveness for his bike. Indeed, Vinales put the RS-GP on the podium in Portugal and he is currently the best-placed Aprilia rider in the standings (5th, 18 points behind Bezzecchi and 9 behind Bagnaia).
So, it is easy to see that Pecco has a golden opportunity in his hands. Not so much because he has no rivals (Bezzecchi is fast and can still win, just to give one example), but because his most dangerous opponents for the championship are idle or in difficulty. The situation may not necessarily remain the same and comebacks are always possible (last year Pecco made up 91 points and this season with the sprint race there are even more up for grabs every weekend), so it is important to build up a treasure of points for any dark moments.
Bagnaia won at Austin in Moto2 in 2018 (the year of his World Championship title), while in MotoGP he got on the podium in 2021, so it is not an impossible track for him and neither for Ducati, which took victory last season with Bastianini. With Marquez and Rins, Enea completes the list of winners at the CotA. The world champion should update it with his name, knowing that his first opponent this weekend will be ... himself.