Despite the more than two seasons of ordeal that Marc Marquez is suffering, the Honda rider continues to be the great reference in the MotoGP World Championship. For this reason, any news about him, whatever it may be, immediately gives rise to speculation about his future. The fact that this Friday, January 14, Márquez did not participate together with the other Honda riders in MotoGP in a telematic meeting with the press, has set off the alarm. Officially, his absence at this event has been justified by claiming that “he continues to focus on his recovery and preparations for the preseason”, as explained in the official statement issued. Honda would end up confirming that Márquez has already gotten on a motocross bike “three months later at the Ponts circuit (Lleida) where, after several races, the sensations were positive”. According to the brand, the next step for Márquez will be to train on a speed circuit. Do they play cluelessness before the preseason?
The truth is that this is an explanation that hardly justifies his absence, given that the other three Honda riders, Pol Espargaró, Alex Márquez and Takaaki Nakagami, presumably are also focused on preparing for the preseason, and a few minutes dedicated to attending a virtual press conference do not suppose an insurmountable alteration… In any case, Honda has confirmed that Márquez will be present at the virtual presentation of the team on February 8.
All this inevitably causes an escalation of rumors about Márquez and his future, whether in the short, medium or long term, because his presence in the first pre-season training sessions scheduled for February 5 in Sepang has not yet been confirmed. (Malaysia). Before, on January 26 and 27, the Honda test team will ride in Jerez, sharing the track with several World Superbike teams.
Various scenarios are shown in different media. From a partial absence, in preseason or in the first races, as happened in 2021, where he could be replaced by tester Stefan Bradl, to a longer absence. Or in the worst case, his exit from the competition adventuring with various speculations about the steps to follow. Names can be given, but it would be nothing more than a science fiction episode.
Quartararo and Mir, in the spotlight
Rumors are insistent that speak of a Urgent search for a top rider for the team by Honda given the different scenarios that could arise in the face of a more or less prolonged absence of Márquez, who has a contract with Honda until 2024. The two applicants that sound the most are precisely the last two MotoGP champions, Fabio Quartararo and Joan Mir.
Quartararo was disappointed by the material that Yamaha made available to him in the tests carried out in November, suffering a kind of disenchantment. It seems that the Frenchman does not mind looking for accommodation elsewhere from 2023. It is being written that he has asked Yamaha for 20 million euros to renew his contract, a figure that at the moment is priceless, not only by Yamaha but by any other motorcycle factory. The time when Jorge Lorenzo jumped the bench with his signing for Ducati will not be repeated in MotoGP.
And if the figure of twenty million is not true, it must not be very far. Yamaha is not going to be able to pay it –or is not willing to do it-, and Lin Jarvis, the person in charge of the fretboard brand, has begun to look for alternatives and to sound out pilots. This means unequivocally that Quartararo will not continue with them when his contractual relationship ends, since Franco Morbidelli, the other man from the official team, has a contract until the end of 2023. And this movement confirms that Quartararo is letting Honda love him, surely because of an amount less than those unattainable twenty million.
As for Mir, from his surroundings they assure us that they are not in contact with any team, at the moment, but “in the future everything remains to be seen”. On the other hand, a source close to Honda has confirmed a contact, without defining to what depth progress has been made. That is, in the future everything remains to be seen.
Yamaha y KTM
The impact of Quartararo’s move would leave Yamaha exposed and without a leader. The haste of Jarvis’s movements, who has contacted, among others, Raúl Fernández, is an example of how complicated the situation can be for the fingerboard brand; offering himself to the man from Madrid a commitment to pure talent and young blood, following the path that Ducati has marked. But Fernández, with a contract with KTM until the end of the 2023 season, will not break his agreement with the Austrian manufacturer no matter how much Yamaha tempts him, because the contractual clauses are complex.
Without Quartararo and with Fernández’s ‘no’, a viable option for Yamaha is the Superbike champion, the Turk Toprak Razgatlioglu, who is also a man of the house, although he has always said he feels more than happy where he is. But after being crowned in SBK, why not take on the challenge of MotoGP?
After KTM’s step back in 2021, the first season in which it has not enjoyed concessions, the Austrian manufacturer operates with care and determination. He has Brad Binder signed through 2024, and both Fernandez and teammate Remy Gardner are fresh talent that needs to be nurtured on the satellite team. They are not willing to let them go happily like that, even though there is someone – and there isn’t – capable of putting on the table the necessary fortune to break their leonine contracts.
That year of filming will be the first season of work for engineer Fabio Sterlacchini at KTM. The one who was Gigi Dall’Igna’s right-hand man at Ducati until the end of 2019, a key figure in the design and development of the Desmosedici, may become KTM’s best signing for the future, and may partly explain the changes in the organizational structure of the Austrian manufacturer, which has relieved Mike Leitner of MotoGP technical management, after having spearheaded the project since 2016. If KTM’s bold move proves successful, it may be that having a contract with the Austrian manufacturer is not as bad a deal as some paint…