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What we learned about the Marquez Ducati move fallout

by Simon Patterson
8 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Thursday at Assen ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix was the first proper chance to hear from the key protagonists in a wild few weeks of MotoGP rider market moves.

Jorge Martin and Marc Marquez gave their takes on the curious Mugello weekend in which Ducati went from seemingly favouring Martin for its second 2025 works team slot to snubbing him in favour of Marquez (prompting Martin to quit for Aprilia), Maverick Vinales explained why he rejected Aprilia’s efforts to keep him and Marco Bezzecchi opened up about leaving mentor Valentino Rossi’s Ducati team for Aprilia despite having been reluctant to move to Pramac Ducati last year.

And - inevitably - Aleix Espargaro’s take on it all as a very closely-involved spectator was worth hearing too.

Here’s everything we learned about those crazy off-track machinations that took place since MotoGP last actually had a race.


Going into the Italian Grand Prix weekend at Mugello four weeks ago, it looked like Martin would be in factory Ducati red next season and that Marquez would remain at satellite team Gresini - but within only a few days, the eight-time world champion was confirmed as Bagnaia’s team-mate and the current title leader Martin was off to Aprilia.

So how did things change so quickly? In large part, it’s because, as believed by The Race’s sources, Ducati changed the offered deal away from the straight contract that Martin believed he had into a shootout between him and Marquez based on the rest of the 2024 championship - an offer that was wholly unacceptable to both parties. And once they'd both dismissed that, Ducati's decided it couldn't risk losing Marquez so went for him.

Martin's annoyance at that was palpably clear at Assen today - especially in the context of having previously been pipped to Ducati factory chances by Enea Bastianini for both 2023 and '24. Now - when he was leading the championship - he'd been snubbed again.

“I arrived in Mugello with some ideas,” Martin explained, “with some information that then during the weekend changed quite a lot. 

"As soon as the race finished, I understood that the way wasn’t that clear so I had to take a decision. Sometimes in life things don’t go as you expect or as you want.

“It’s difficult to explain from my side. I didn’t want to speak about my future during the weekend of Mugello. On Sunday evening I saw that it wasn’t that clear. I also wanted to make my future clear in Mugello. Something or someone arrived and changed the idea.

“It’s OK. I’m frustrated because after such a long time trying to go there, it always seemed like it would never arrive and finally it didn’t arrive. Things happen like they have to happen.”

That thing that arrived, of course, was Marquez - even if his intention from the beginning wasn’t to secure himself a factory seat but instead just to make sure that he had the latest factory-spec machinery next year after the struggles of 2024 on an older bike.

He laid out as long ago as Le Mans at May that he had a plan, and reiterated when asked about his take on the Mugello developments by The Race that, just like at the French Grand Prix, he simply stuck to his guns to ensure that he got what he want.

“Around my team,” he explained, “nothing changed. We had the same information from Le Mans to Montmelo and to Mugello.

"I was very clear and honest about what I want and as I said to you, I wanted the [2025] bike in the official team or the Gresini team.”

Effectively Marquez sat tight regardless of what else was going on around him and made clear that he had to have a 2025 Ducati and he didn't want to go to Pramac to get one. Ducati - perhaps aware KTM might pounce on Marquez if he didn't get what he wanted - blinked first and decided losing Martin was a price worth paying.

It's clear that Marquez would've been very, very content to stay at Gresini and get the 2025 bike there, and he was perhaps slightly sheepish at all the repercussions for the rest of the Ducati fold that his move had triggered. But not that sheepish. What matters most is he has the bike he wants for 2025.


When Aprilia rather red-facedly admitted it had signed Martin to replace the retiring Espargaro without remembering to inform his current team-mate Maverick Vinales, it could have been interpreted as the sort of accidental snub that led to Vinales - who Rivola had been keen to keep - defecting to KTM only a few days later.

However, while the timing of Martin's announcement might have played a role in Vinales' decision to move quickly to secure the Tech3 KTM deal, he was adamant that it wasn't the deciding factor - because he'd already made his mind up to leave weeks earlier thanks to the inconsistency of the RS-GP.

Asked by The Race about the timeline of his decision to leave Aprilia, Vinales said the trigger had actually been the swing in its form from his domination of Austin to struggling at Jerez two weeks later - all of which happened a month before the other rider moves.

"To be honest, my decision I was thinking about from Jerez,” said Vinales.

“I didn't feel like continuing, because after Austin I was a little bit shocked about what I was able to do - but only in one race from 22.

"Actually I was thinking a lot about that, and honestly with the market moving so fast I wanted to be more calm. To arrive to the summer and decide.

“But seeing that Aprilia was fast in signing Jorge, obviously it would be a really good team, Maverick and Jorge, but I had already made up my mind earlier than Mugello."


As was the case when Vinales made a dramatic mid-season switch from Yamaha, team ‘captain’ Aleix Espargaro played a role in a major Aprilia signing.

This time it was for Martin to be his own replacement, and Espargaro was understandably delighted that “my best friend and the leader of the championship will be riding my bike next year”.

Espargaro ended up with a unique perspective on how Martin dealt with the blow from Ducati.

“In Barcelona,” Espargaro explained, “Jorge was very close to signing with Ducati. Actually it was almost done

“And then during the Mugello weekend they told him that they wanted more time, so it was not clear.

“Jorge had different options. After the race he stayed in my motorhome until midnight on Sunday, doing a lot of questions, asking a lot of things.

“And then on Monday he decided to sign [for Aprilia]. It was quite fast, quite exceptional because obviously they had my contract, we have the same manager, so it was quite easy really to change a few things and he was an Aprilia rider.

“It was not that sure at the beginning. He had some doubts. He had another very, very good option on the table [believed to be interest from KTM].

“After the race we spent five hours talking. He asked many things technically and obviously he was quite disappointed with Ducati so on the human side he was very interested to understand how the team is.

“He saw how happy I am, how much I enjoy these years with Aprilia. So for me it was quite easy really to convince him and on Monday morning I talked with Massimo [Rivola] and said ‘Massimo, prepare the contract, he’s convinced’ and everybody was very happy in Aprilia.”

But while Espargaro spent plenty of time with Martin in those crucial hours, Martin was adamant he didn’t get swayed by his friend.

“He had zero influence,” Martin insisted. “I don’t want to make maybe the decision of my life thanks to someone else.

“For sure I wanted to have information to try and understand where I was moving - but the decision I took was the first one that I felt.

“Maybe I started to think of another bike, but I said no, I will take the decision with my heart because I will be happy there. When someone is happy they are fast.”


It’s not always easy to tell your boss that you’re leaving your job for a better opportunity - and that process is made even harder when your current boss is also your childhood hero and global superstar Rossi.

However, Bezzecchi was relieved to discover that Rossi wasn’t disappointed to find out that he would be leaving the VR46 Ducati ranks next year, after having to break the news that he had been offered a factory Aprilia seat.

“We are both a bit sad by this,” Bezzecchi admitted, “but he is happy for me. We spoke a lot during these days, and saw each other on Monday to watch the Italian football team. 

“It was the day that the news came out, and we hugged each other and he was happy for me.

“Fortunately he understood everything, because I was a bit afraid to be honest! But he understood, like a good friend.”

The decision comes just under a year after Bezzecchi elected to remain with Rossi’s team on year-old machinery rather than making a move to current-spec bikes at Ducati’s top tier Pramac team because he felt he’d fare better in the familiar atmosphere of VR46.

Bezzecchi said the fact this was a factory opportunity not a move between satellites made this a very different decision.

“Once I changed, I wanted to change to a full factory team,” he explained.

“Last year, Ducati gave me the possibility to go into the factory-supported team, which was a very good offer, but I didn’t know if I would feel the same with all the team like I do right now.

“This year was different. I had the chance to change from my team to a full factory team. The decision was different.”


While Ducati’s created an epic multiple championship-winning 2025 factory line-up in Bagnaia and Marquez, that decision has effectively triggered the exits of Martin, Bezzecchi and Pramac from what had been an ominously strong eight-bike armada that was extremely hard for the rest of the grid to get among.

That’s a welcome rebalancing of the MotoGP field, reckons Espargaro.

“Everybody was expecting changes from Liberty Media and then the paddock by itself made the movement!” Espargaro joked.

“It’s going to be very interesting. Ducati - by the strategy they took, which I respect - helped the other manufacturers a lot. That’s for sure.

“KTM is going to be super-strong. Aprilia’s going to be very strong. With really motivated riders in KTM and Aprilia and it looks like they’re [Ducati] going to lose two bikes, it’s going to balance the championship.”

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