until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


More losers than winners if Marquez settles for staying at Honda

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

As the prospect of Marc Marquez defecting from Honda to Gresini Ducati gained more and more momentum over the course of the Misano MotoGP weekend, one thing still didn’t entirely fit.

Why would Marquez, so careful and pinpoint-precise in his media rhetoric when it comes to Honda, suddenly start dropping increasingly unsubtle hints? Why, if he really was leaving, would he seemingly go out of his way to taunt his long-time employer rather than just get the deal done behind the scenes and come out with a boilerplate ‘this is what I’ve decided, but for the next few months my focus is Honda’ like most of his peers would do?

A report from Emilio Perez de Rosas in Catalan daily El Periodico now states that Marquez will be going nowhere. If that’s the case – and given the source of the latest report is a veteran paddock journalist extremely close to the Marquez camp, this seems virtually guaranteed – Marquez’s teasing lands decidedly on the side of ‘harmless fun’ rather than ‘cruel taunting’. So that aspect of it now makes a whole lot more sense.


In every other regard and from every other angle, it is an immeasurable disappointment.

It is yet another reflection of Marquez’s gravitational pull that even in his worst season in MotoGP (as the 21 race laps he completed at Jerez in 2020 before his arm break were still infinitely better than this), he has managed to whip up a silly season frenzy that promised potentially humongous knock-on effects not just for Marquez and Honda but for other teams and riders not even limited to just the MotoGP paddock.

More than that, though, the Marquez-to-Gresini idea – a legend on a capable but old-spec satellite bike, seeking both a return to the frontrunning places he belongs in and a full season alongside his brother that he was effectively denied by his 2020 injury – was too romantic to ignore. Maybe for Marquez himself, too.

The way he’d gone about it, though, suggests it was probably never even close to a 50/50 decision – the hints were way too playful for that. And if staying at Honda was always the endgame, all that can elicit is a shrug.

The entertainment was great, but the end result is Marquez staying with a manufacturer that hasn’t scored points in a single sprint race since early June.

Marquez, now fit again after being battered by the unruly RC213V at a Sachsenring track he adores, is barely managing to drag the bike to the outskirts of the top 10, now relegated to a supporting character in the MotoGP play – starring once or twice per weekend by producing unthinkable single-lap efforts while in the tow of a better bike. Perhaps – almost certainly – that was part of the appeal in fanning the rumour mill flames a bit.

But now that they’re being extinguished, what’s been achieved besides a bit of fun and a better outcome for Marquez’s bank balance?

If it was supposed to send a message to Honda, show it it’s this close to losing its iconic flag-bearer – well, why should a message like that even be needed?


If a 2023 in which nothing apart from a single Circuit of the Americas weekend has gone right, in which its best new rider signing in ages immediately defected to Yamaha (where things aren’t all that rosy!) and a newly-recruited MotoGP champion is now last virtually all the time, hasn’t been enough to, as they say, ‘put the fear of God’ into Honda… is there any point in trying to send any messages? And if Honda is aware and reacting already, then the public hullabaloo just seems unhelpful.

Beyond that, unless the 2024 Honda prototype engine in the Misano test tomorrow is the kind of leap forward that absolutely nobody expects, this is nothing but a spinning of the wheels.

Marquez doesn’t get his race-winning bike. Honda doesn’t get its clean break at the start of what everybody seems to admit will be at least a medium-term rebuild. Gresini doesn’t get its epic line-up. Ducati – well, Ducati doesn’t get the disruption, so that’s a plus, but it certainly misses out on a lot of added public interest and even perhaps goodwill.

And MotoGP misses out big-time, for obvious reasons. We all do.

MotoGP loves its Spanish football. One of Marquez’s several fanning-of-the-flames acts this week was posting a video on social media featuring an audio clip from a famous football (and more specifically transfer market) commentator Gerard Romero – “Things are happening!”.


And in breaking the news of his Honda re-commitment, El Periodico immediately referenced the famous ‘se queda’ – ‘he stays’ – episode in the Neymar/Barcelona/PSG transfer saga.

In a moment that now lives in footballing lore and infamy, Neymar’s Barcelona team-mate Gerard Pique (who was in the MotoGP paddock last weekend) tweeted “he stays” with a selfie of himself and Neymar, just as rumours swirled and swirled about Neymar being poached away from the club.

Now, the reason that moment wound up such a cultural shorthand is because Neymar did leave Barcelona two weeks later for €222million, activating his release clause despite the club’s protestations.

Which is, of course not, to say Marquez is now poised to do something like that. But even beyond the actual outcome there is a crucial difference.


Neymar was choosing between two teams in Barcelona and PSG that were both eminently, self-evidently capable of fighting for the big trophies. This is not the case for Marquez. There is a good chance that his ‘se queda’ represents a commitment to fighting for seventh place every other Saturday and Sunday in 2024.

In terms of emotional impact, it feels like there is a different parallel – ‘La Decision’, the TV special in which French footballer Antoine Griezmann slooowly revealed that after months of speculation he would stay with his Atletico Madrid team over a move to Barcelona.

A year later, Griezmann was at Barcelona anyway. A year later, we’ll be doing this all over again with Marquez. He’ll be 31 at that point – closer to his MotoGP retirement than to the start of his career, and not terribly likely to be fighting for the title.

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