Niccolo Antonelli finally steps up to Moto2 after 10 seasons in Moto3.
Niccolo Antonelli is an OG, he’s one of the first riders to race in the Moto3 series after it switched from 125cc and seemingly liked it so much he decided to stay for 10 years after making his debut at the class’ minimum age of 16. It’s sort of a shame he stayed in the class for so long, the Italian has proven time and time again that he is more than fast enough to contend for a Moto3 World Championship but never had the consistency to follow through with it, opting to jump from team to team to try and find the best combination of bike and team possible to win.
His most successful year was 2015 when the then 19-year-old proved to be somewhat of a prodigy coming home in P5 overall taking his ever class first podium with a victory at Brno, heading into 2016 he was one of the strongest contenders for the title and after winning the opening race of the season in Qatar, he looked to be unbeatable. This sadly was incredibly short-lived as he failed to finish higher than fourth place for the remainder of the season, eventually coming home in P11 overall. He made the switch to the Red Bull KTM Ajo Team for 2017 replacing 2016 Moto3 World Champion Brad Binder and forgoing his Monster Energy sponsorship in the process.
Qatar 2016, a season that started so well…
This 2017 season on paper would’ve been his title-winning year, he replaced the outgoing champion and the stars had aligned, he knew he was fast after a strong 2015 and a win in 2016, yet he struggled tremendously on the KTM and came home in a pretty disappointing P18 overall with one podium to his name, he left the team and returned to Honda at the end of the year to race for the SIC58 squad.
He stayed in this team for three seasons between 2018 and 2020 and would take just one podium, a win at Jerez in 2019. 2019 was by far his best of the three seasons coming home in P7 overall, he would once again plummet down the order in 2020 finishing in P19 overall with just 40 points to his name, his career had peaked and he needed to do something desperate to try and save what was left. He left the squad and went back to KTM with the VR46 backed Avintia team, a massively risky move as history has shown, but if he wanted to save his career, he had no choice.
Antonelli donning the SIC58 colours, suited him well given many said he looked like Marco Simoncelli in his youth.
KTM in 2021 was the bike to be on, the only Honda’s that won races were ridden by Le0pard riders who seem to have jetpacks pre-installed into their suits. Antonelli worked incredibly hard to try to re-adjust to life on the harder to ride KTM that requires a rider who can brake late and bully the 48HP machine into submission. The Italian went on to have his second-best ever season in the class with four podiums to his name and P6 in the championship, he had once again proven himself.
A spot had opened up in the Mooney VR46 Moto2 team for 2022 with the departure of Marco Bezzecchi to Moto2, Andrea Migno and Niccolo Antonelli’s names were on the list but it was the latter who was picked to step up into the intermediate class where life may be a bit kinder to the rapid Italian after 10 long seasons in the lightweight class. Only time will tell.
Featured images – Mooney VR46 Racing Team / MotoGP