Raul Fernandez moves to MotoGP after just one season in Moto2, after nearly winning the title as a rookie.
Raul Fernandez makes up half of a rookie duo in the Tech3 Factory Racing KTM Team in 2022, the young Spaniard has a fierce reputation and an appetite for speed, adapting incredibly quickly to the machinery he is given as proven in 2021.
Fernandez has been a KTM rider for every year of his career bar 2017 when he raced for the Aspar team on a Mahindra Moto3 machine, aside from that he has competed within the KTM family since 2014 when he made his debut in the CEV Moto3 Junior World Championship. In the 2015 season Raul would double up the Junior Championship with the Red Bull rookies and scored points in the six CEV races he entered, finishing in P7 overall in the Red Bull Rookies with three podiums to his name, proving to be a future star in the sport.
When 2016 arrived he went one better and finished in P3 overall in both series’ with a consistent showing in the rookies cup including six podiums and two race wins, over in the Moto3 Junior World Championship he took four podiums and a race win. These results impressed the MH6 Team run by Maria Herrera and her father and they selected the young Raul to compete in the final race of the 2016 season at Valencia in place of an injured Maria, Raul would once again prove his class coming home in P11 after battling for the top 10, this result was better than Maria’s best result from the 2016 season and meant Raul finished in P32 overall in the standings, one place behind Maria Herrera in P31 despite making just one appearance.
Fernandez joined by Ayumu Sasaki, Aleix Viu and Brad Binder on a Red Bull Rookies podium at Jerez, 2016.
He made the switch from Laglisse to the Aspar Team within the Junior World Championship for 2017 with the goal of battling for the championship with some world championship wildcards also planned for the then 17-year-old, sadly the change from the competitive KTM machinery over to Mahindra very nearly cost Raul his career, he struggled tremendously and finished the season in P28 overall with three non-scoring results in the World Championship. It was a complete disaster going from P3 overall one year to P28 the next, thankfully though the team realised that this wasn’t working and retained Raul with the promise of a KTM for the 2018 season.
2018 was the year it all fell into place for Fernandez, he was crowned the Moto3 Junior World Champion with seven podiums and three wins under his belt on the trusty KTM, he also made some more world championship appearances with Aspar and the Red Bull KTM Ajo Team scoring points in three of the four races with a best of P9 in Germany with Ajo’s squad, the talent was there. His title meant that the Aspar Team made the push to promote him to the world championship for 2019 and managed to fend off the competition to secure his services for 2019 and 2020.
The 2019 season was a solid year, he scored points in most races with a season-best result of P5 in Germany, there was more speed in there somewhere it just needed to be unlocked which is where the talent factory of Aki Ajo came in, the Red Bull backed team made a huge push to get Raul out of his Aspar contract that resulted in Raul burning bridges with Aspar but starting a new life in the Red Bull Ajo colours, opening the doors right through to the KTM RC16 MotoGP bikes in the premier class.
The first test with Red Bull KTM Ajo, 2020 pre-season.
This move proved to be the best for his career as we now know thanks to his arrival in the MotoGP class, Raul was a serial pole hound in Moto3 in 2020 taking a massive six to his name however lacked the edge to stand on the podium, he needed to improve by 5% and he would be a regular podium contender, thankfully Aki Ajo knew how to extract this as he has done so with many riders over the years. At the end of the 2020 season Raul had four podiums to his name and two victories, he was a certain title contender for 2021.
2021 was meant to be a season where Raul stayed in Moto3, after all he was contracted to remain in the class with an idea to move to Moto2 for the 2022 season following a solid year, however things don’t often go as planned as we found both for and against the favour of Raul Fernandez, the reason things did and didn’t go to plan can be pinpointed down to one name, Pedro Acosta.
Heading into 2021 Pedro Acosta didn’t have a Moto3 seat despite being the Red Bull Rookies champion and finishing in P3 in the Junior World Championship, the deal he had signed with PrustelGP had fallen through and he was left on the sidelines. KTM and Red Bull saw the talent Acosta possessed and that there was an empty Moto2 seat and a rapidly growing Raul Fernandez who could barely fit onto a Moto3 bike anymore, the decision was made to slot Raul Fernandez in Moto2 next to Remy Gardner and put Pedro Acosta into Raul’s Moto3 seat, this worked in the favour of Raul and Pedro for 2021.
The first Moto3 victory, Valencia 2020.
2021 was the year of the rookies as we saw both Pedro Acosta and Raul Fernandez valiantly fight for the championship in their respective classes as rookies, this completely blew apart the plans KTM had set aside for both riders with both contracted to at least two years in their respected classes before prospective elevations up the series into Moto2 for Acosta and MotoGP for Fernandez in 2023. However, with Acosta tearing Moto3 to shreds and every Moto2 and even MotoGP team bombarding the emails of Acosta’s manager, something had to be done and it had to be done fast with Acosta publically stating he wanted to move to Moto2 for 2022.
Raul Fernandez had impressed in Moto2 with seven pole positions, 12 podiums and eight victories, a winning record that beat the previous seven of Marc Marquez in 2011. Raul was adamant he wanted to stay in Moto2 and made that very clear, he wanted to fight for the Moto2 world championship in 2022 and he had everything at his disposal to do so, it was his easiest chance at a world championship in his entire career but of course Pedro Acosta was knocking on the door wanting his seat.
It took him just three races to win in Moto2.
With both KTM Tech3 MotoGP riders not having their contracts renewed and Remy Gardner already moving to MotoGP, KTM made the decision to promote Fernandez to MotoGP a year ahead of schedule to allow Acosta to move up, this was very much against the favour and wishes of Fernandez who felt he had unfinished business in Moto2, Raul going out of his way to criticise the choice stating that the KTM RC16 does not suit his style, hinting that he’d prefer a Yamaha. This was music to the ears of Yamaha who had applied a lot of pressure onto KTM to try to release Raul from his Moto2 contract to race for the RNF WithU MotoGP squad for 2022, even stating they’d pay the €500,000 release clause fee.
KTM’s decision was final and Raul would be announced as the partner to Remy Gardner for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship in the Tech3 Factory Racing Team, Raul continued to show his frustrations and anger with some scornful looking press images being released of him looking fairly angry at the camera at the Jerez test before going ahead and launching an attack on the KTM Ajo team stating to Motorsport.es that he was the “Moral 2021 Champion” and that the team put “stones” in his way to stop him winning the championship. This reaction really didn’t go down well with KTM with his teammate Remy Gardner describing it as “bullshit”.
It’s clear to see that Fernandez is already trying to disrupt the rhythm in the KTM family with many suggesting he is trying to ensure his exit from KTM at the end of the 2022 season with these comments.
Despite the drama, Raul has proven to be an exceptionally talented rider and after impressing in pre-season testing he is going to be a force, there’s also every chance he will once again lose his seat to Pedro Acosta in 2023 after the Moto2 rookie led the pre-season tests of the middleweight class, KTM’s talent wheel continuing to spin and generate world champions, however with Yamaha tabling their interest and Raul mutually showing similar interests, he’s not going to be short of offers for 2023.
Image credit – Gold & Goose / Red Bull Content Pool