MotoGP 2012: Ask the pundits

Casey Stoner begins the defence of his MotoGP title in Qatar next weekend, with the Australian favourite to win his third championship on his Repsol Honda.

The 26-year-old was in a class of his own last season, winning 10 of the 17 races on his way to 350 points and the crown.

But, with the bikes increasing in size to 1,000cc this season, will it be all change?

British rider Cal Crutchlow has been in is this the year when we finally see a Brit on the MotoGP podium?

BBC Sport asked commentator Steve Parrish, pit-lane reporter Azi Farni and presenter Matt Roberts to give us their views on the new campaign.

Who will win the title, and why?

Matt Roberts, BBC MotoGP presenter: "Casey Stoner has the experience, the machinery, the mental strength and, as a rider, the edge over Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa.

"But I think it will be much tighter than last season and any mistake will be costly."

Azi Farni, pit-lane reporter: "You can't bet against Stoner; he´s the best rider on the best bike, although I think he will find retaining the title a lot harder than fighting for it last year.

"Yamaha have stepped up for the 1,000s and he will face tougher competition from Lorenzo and Ben Spies this year. An injury-free Pedrosa is a big threat too."

Steve Parrish, BBC commentator: "Stoner is the favourite from what I've seen in testing. He looks solid and focused and as hungry as ever. In testing he's been top dog but it will be harder for him this year. He's fast, he's on a fast bike and he's proven that he is consistent enough to win championships."

How will Cal Crutchlow go this year?

Roberts: "Cal will expect to go much better than last season. The 1,000cc bike suits him more than the 800cc he had last year and he now has experience at all the circuits.

Cal Crutchlow
Cal Crutchlow could be on the podium in 2012

"He will be aiming for regular top-six finishes but a podium or two is not out of the question, which would be a fantastic achievement."

Farni: "Both Cal and the Yamaha have been very strong in pre-season testing and he could easily find himself in a few podium fights this year. The 1,000s suit him better and the competition with team-mate Andrea Dovizioso to retain his seat for 2013 should encourage some great performances from both."

Parrish: "He's made another step forward. If he can run fifth or sixth this year then it only takes a few mistakes or a crash ahead and he can be on the podium which would be great for British motorcycling. This is the pivotal year for him."

Which race are you most looking forward to?

Roberts: "As always I am looking forward to Qatar. Five months without a race is too long and the moment where we find out what everybody has got up their sleeve in that opening race, under the floodlights, is hugely exciting.

Valentino Rossi
Racing starts under the floodlights in Qatar

"Then I'll be looking forward to the next one and the next one and the next one..."

Farni: "Laguna Seca and Silverstone. Laguna for the atmosphere; it's the first flyaway after a lot of races in Europe so it has a special vibe and the track is still one of best visually for watching the race. Silverstone because it's my home GP and the BBC show has an extra special feel to it."

Parrish: "The first race because everyone sets their stalls out for the season, and then Silverstone. We've got a lot of British talent in Moto2 and Moto3 to keep an eye on this year and it could be a great weekend."

Describe MotoGP in three words

Roberts: "Fastest. Motorcycles. Ever..."

Farni: "Speed. Daring. Adventure."

Parrish: "Exciting. Fearsome. Projectiles."

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