until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Honda needs to treat Mir like Yamaha treats Quartararo

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Iconic MotoGP crew chief Jeremy Burgess - a champion with Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan and Valentino Rossi - once said that “if the rider wants gold handlebars, give him gold handlebars”.

It’s a lesson that Yamaha has seemingly taken on board, given the lengths it went to to convince Fabio Quartararo to stay, and a lesson that Honda seemingly needs to learn soon if it wants to keep its own world champion rider Joan Mir beyond the 2024 MotoGP season.

Yamaha’s changes to ensure that the 2021 world champion stayed put have been extensive and well-documented. Adding many fresh ideas from Europe, it means that for the first time ever Yamaha has an Italian rather than a Japanese engineer leading the M1’s development in the form of former Ducati man Massimo Bartolini.

He's joined new head of aerodynamics Marco Nicotra, also stolen from Bologna, while Yamaha's engine development programme has for some time been led by former Toyota and Ferrari Formula 1 man Luca Marmorini.

The change has been noticeable already, too, even if it hasn’t quite been reflected in the results, with a slew of new components arriving - and what’s believed by The Race’s sources to be a highly successful test last week at Mugello ahead of this weekend’s Catalan Grand Prix.

And while many have suggested that it was only money that motivated Quartararo to renew his deal with Yamaha for another two years, that’s not fair to him given how much he has called for change in the past two years - and how effusive in his praise he’s been about the team’s efforts to adapt.

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha, MotoGP

Mir has not had a Quartararo-esque impact at Honda - far from it. But he is the marque's youngest contracted rider, the one with the most MotoGP success, and probably the highest performance ceiling - and yet it feels, at least publicly, that Honda hasn't done enough to ensure Mir stays.

Making staffing changes but doing so by rotating Japanese engineers through the team, it means that the development of the troubled RC213V so far has come across as being rather evolutionary rather than brave and bold - something that the 2020 world champion admitted himself.

“It’s true that Honda has changed also a lot of things internally,” Mir insisted. “I don’t know if...probably they think that is enough - and maybe that is the thing.

“But at the moment it’s true that we have to give a bit of time to understand, to have some patience and give the new people the chance and the opportunity.

“But yeah, it’s true that everything we’ve tried at the moment isn’t the direction. Comparing to last year, what I can say is that I see more reaction this year. That is a fact.

Joan Mir, Honda, MotoGP

“But if you ask to me if it’s enough or not, I don’t know. Let’s give it a bit more time and give it more patience. But right now the reality is this one.”

And when quizzed directly on contract matters, Mir has sounded like a rider far from convinced of committing to Honda again.

The reality is, though, that while his results might not show it so far, Honda needs Mir just as much or maybe even more than he needs Honda.

He’s had an inglorious time so far as a Honda rider - with his total number of crashes last year rather remarkably only two fewer than the number of points he scored across the entire season.

It was a consequence, it seems, of the Spaniard simply refusing to accept the limitations of the bike and continuing to push as hard as he can - and a similar pattern seems to be playing out in 2024.

Joan Mir crash, Honda, MotoGP

And to be frank, that’s the reason why Honda needs to keep Mir. He’s not just an incredibly talented racer with a track record of strong development work, but a rider who won't just phone it in and cash the cheques.

With its new signing Luca Marini reaching the finish in all but one of the 10 starts yet not even having a point to show for it, Honda needs to see the value in Mir's reckless-abandon performances.

Whether Mir is its future or not, it is not really in a position to just let him walk away disillusioned now, another Honda failure seeing out his contract and lying in wait to be replaced by any old name from an increasingly-shrinking list of candidates.

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