until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


The fresh Marquez dilemma Ducati is facing

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Coming into a new MotoGP season, it’s not unusual to see the previous year’s machines outperforming newer bikes as teams settle in.

That’s been an exception in 2024 with Ducati, considering how fast the GP24 bike is - but with one of the riders on the older GP23 consistently in the mix with those on the newer spec, there might be a headache coming soon for factory boss Gigi Dall’Igna as he tries to solve his Marc Marquez dilemma.

Ducati’s progression so far in 2024 has been something of a mixed bag, despite last year’s championship contender Jorge Martin enjoying a comfortable points lead on the Pramac Racing machine after three rounds of the series.

Elsewhere, things have been more difficult. Reigning world champion Pecco Bagnaia has been inconsistent on the factory bike, struggling with chatter issues that seem in part to stem from Michelin’s introduction of a slightly different new tyre for this season.

His team-mate Enea Bastianini, on the podium last time out in Texas and second in the title fight right now, has had a better start, but he too isn’t quite at the level that the Ducati had perhaps hoped for - especially in comparison to satellite racer Martin.

But things are considerably worse for the GP23 racers. Normally able to start the season on a fully developed and refined machine that is pretty much plug-and-play, that hasn’t been the case this season, with a bike that’s not just struggling with the same Michelin issues as the 2024 bike - but also simply isn’t as fast as its successor.

That performance difference has meant disappointing results for the likes of 2023 race winners Marco Bezzecchi and Fabio Di Giannantonio - and Di Giannantonio's former team-mate and fellow occasional frontrunner Alex Marquez - in the opening rounds of the year.

Bezzecchi in particular is likely to now be regretting his decision to turn down the chance to be Martin’s Pramac team-mate in favour of remaining with his familiar VR46 squad.

However, it's fair to say that the majority of the focus has so far been on the other GP23 rider - six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez, as he makes his own adaptation to Ducati after a career in the premier class so far entirely spent on Hondas.

That’s not entirely unexpected either, because looking at his pace, Marquez has been one of the fastest of all the Ducatis - if not the outright fastest, even if his results don’t necessarily reflect it so far. 

Hampered so far by multiple dramas ranging from contact with Pecco Bagnaia to brake issues in COTA, he arguably should have multiple podium finishes by now on the Gresini bike - and maybe even a race win last time out in Texas, had he been able to make it to the chequered flag instead of crashing out.

And within that speed lies a potential problem for his Italian employers, especially given the difficulties being faced right now by the factory team.

Does it continue to work to fix the problems that Bagnaia in particular is facing right now, or is it a case of doing something it has never really done in the past and pumping resources into continuing the development of a year-old machine given Marquez’s potential?

One thing is pretty certain: team manager Dall’Igna is determined to win. And he hasn’t traditionally been too concerned with which of his riders is doing that.

He’s also believed to see Marquez as something of a long-term future bet for his factory, especially as the MotoGP paddock prepares to find ways to counter the imminent rise of KTM/Gas Gas's new superstar Pedro Acosta.

We might get a hint of what direction the Ducati future is likely to take in the coming days, with a post-race test at Jerez on Monday the first opportunity to trial new parts for Marquez - as well as being a valuable chance for the factory team to try and get back to the correct path.

The issue also raises questions for the future. Right now one seat remains open in Ducati’s factory ranks alongside the re-signed Bagnaia, with Marquez believed to be a key target.

But with his Gresini squad looking increasingly likely to receive at least one factory bike should Pramac switch its allegiance to Yamaha next year, it might be enough to convince him to stay with the family-atmosphere team he’s joined this season.

One thing looks increasingly clear: his ambition to return to winning ways after a torrid four years of injury at Honda is now more realistic than ever - but that might depend on what support comes his way to fully realise it.

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