Australian MotoGP™ rider Jack Miller needs a race-winning run to start his 2022 MotoGP™ season if he's to retain his ride with the factory Ducati team; that's the view of long-time paddock insider and TV commentator Matt Birt, the featured guest on the latest episode of the In The Fast Lane podcast.
Miller, 27, won races in Spain and France last season en route to finishing a career-best fourth in the world championship, but Ducati teammate Francesco 'Pecco' Bagnaia was runner-up to eventual champion Fabio Quartararo (Yamaha), and won four of the final six Grands Prix of 2021.
Bagnaia recently inked a two-year contract extension with the Italian manufacturer, and with Miller out of contract at the end of 2022 and Ducati having promising youngsters Jorge Martin and Enea Bastianini on their books, Birt feels the Townsville tearaway needs to deliver from day one, with the 21-race campaign commencing in Qatar this Sunday (March 6).
"It's a massive year for Jack," Birt told the Australian Grand Prix Corporation's official podcast.
"The first six to seven races are going to be huge in terms of Jack and the future with the factory Ducati team.
"It's a results-driven business, and that's what Jack will be judged on. He can't afford to be beaten by those guys like Martin and Bastianini early doors. He had a great start to last year winning those Grands Prix at Jerez and Le Mans, and he's going to need to do the same, pick up a couple of wins in the first third of the season, or certainly be there right at the front to convince Ducati."
Miller's compatriot Remy Gardner gives Australia two full-time riders in MotoGP for the first time since 2009, and the 24-year-old makes his premier-class debut in Doha this weekend for KTM after winning last year's Moto2™ world championship.
Birt feels 2022 needs to be a season of incremental gains for Gardner, son of 1987 500cc world champion Wayne Gardner, as he adjusts to the level of competition he'll face in the 24-rider field.
"Remy's going off the 10-metre board this year, he's coming into the championship when it's at its most competitive," Birt said.
"The KTM clearly isn’t at the level of the Ducati, the Yamaha, the Honda … Remy's going to be reliant on how the KTM can develop throughout the season."
"If he can establish himself mid-season from 15th to 10th place, get himself regularly in the points, don't fall off … in your rookie year, you've got to stay on the bike and gain experience."
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