When Jorge Martin broke his long-standing KTM ties and picked Ducati to step up from Moto2 to MotoGP, it was in large part a strategic decision to give him the best possible chance of fighting for first race wins and then a title.
Now the 2023 championship runner-up, he's proved that was the right choice to make.
But three seasons into his Ducati career and as he prepares to start the final year of his current deal with the firm, it’s looking more and more likely that his future will lie elsewhere for many of the same reasons that first took him to Ducati.
When Martin first made the jump to the premier class, it came at the expense of a career largely centred around KTM and its support.
He’s spoken openly in the past about how the Red Bull Rookies Cup - which he won in 2014 - essentially saved his career by giving him a chance to keep racing when his family could no longer afford to buy him rides, and he repaid the KTM partner for that multiple times over.
Though his 2018 Moto3 title came on a Honda, he rejoined KTM for his two seasons in Moto2 and paid it back for its earlier investment in his career by fighting for wins and podiums in his two years with the Ajo squad.
But, with the RC16 not then up to speed in MotoGP, it was instead Ducati that he elected to join for his big premier-class move - despite an offer to continue with KTM.
That move has, of course, worked out exceedingly well for him up to now. A pole position qualifier in only his second race, a race winner in his first season, and very nearly the first satellite team world champion in modern history in 2023, it’s been a massive success for him, his Pramac team and for Ducati since then.
But there’s one very obvious problem with Martin’s career trajectory so far that has the potential to colour his entire future. Despite an incredible 2023 featuring a title challenge that went all the way to the final race, four grand prix wins and nine sprint wins (nearly half the season), he will remain with Pramac Racing in 2024 rather than joining his title rival Pecco Bagnaia in factory red.
It’s not a secret that Martin wants that coveted factory seat. He is one of the series’ most aggressive racers, and with that comes no small measure of ego - and he’s been bullish of late in telling the world that he believes that it should have been him, not current seat occupant Enea Bastianini, alongside Bagnaia for next year.
It’s a switch, it seems, that the pair’s factory Ducati contracts would have allowed for, with Martin recently revealing that a title win would have meant he was automatically promoted. Coming home 39 points behind Bagnaia wasn’t good enough to earn him the top tier seat he desperately wants.
And since the final round of the championship at Valencia a month ago, he hasn’t exactly been shy about telling the world that what he perceives as Ducati snubbing him means that he’s now more than happy to look elsewhere after next season.
“My 100% priority for 2025 is an official team,” he recently told Spanish newspaper AS. “My goal is the official Ducati team, because it is the factory I am with, I know the bike and I have a lot of projection in this factory, but if they don't want me or understand that I am not the best, I will look for something else.”
There are multiple stumbling blocks that could prevent Ducati offering him the ride he so desperately wants.
Firstly, there's the fact that Bastianini’s 2023 season was completely and utterly destroyed by injuries that left him wholly unable to show his true form - a situation that allowed Martin to look remarkable in comparison but which might not continue into 2024.
Then, of course, there’s the absolute wildcard of Marc Marquez. He's now a Ducati rider with Gresini, and factory management has already made it abundantly clear that he’s a target for the official bike in 2025 should he perform, adding yet another roadblock to Martin’s career plans.
And the reality is Martin won't lack opportunities to move, given the impressive season that he’s just come from and the fact that there’s likely to be more changes than ever to the MotoGP grid for 2025 once contract negotiations start in the new year.
The most obvious option should he want to go elsewhere is KTM.
He’s got a strong relationship with it, it's already pitched for his services once before and, with Jack Miller underperforming in his first season on the factory bike, it’s not exactly going to be a shock should KTM look elsewhere to find a new partner to team up with Martin’s former Moto2 team-mate Brad Binder.
There’s potentially also an opportunity at Honda, should the hints of a better RC213V that emerged at the post-season Valencia test mature into something more competitive. 2020 world champion Joan Mir’s contract expires at the end of 2024, and while he might be right now playing the role of team player, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Honda looked elsewhere.
But the real wildcard opportunity for Martin might instead come at another Italian brand.
He's close friends with Aleix Espargaro (the pair often describe each other as brothers), and the veteran Aprilia team captain has been toying with the idea of making 2024 his last season.
It would come as no surprise whatsoever should Espargaro recommend his best friend to take over from him on a bike that is closing the gap to Ducati’s dominant Desmosedici.
And while this might all be pie-in-the-sky thinking for now, especially with the 2024 season still months away, it’s far from unrealistic to imagine that we’ll see Martin on another machine by 2025.
One thing is absolutely certain: he won’t still be on a Pramac Ducati come hell or high water. So even if it's not clear where he will be, those Ducati obstacles make a move away look extremely likely - despite all they've just achieved together.
but what exactly the alternative is remains to be seen.