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MotoGP Indian GP

How one Marquez’s MotoGP switch can inspire another

Marc Marquez’s links to Gresini Ducati for 2024 and what he decides to do next season is the biggest story gripping MotoGP right now. But one Marquez has already made the switch from Honda to Ducati and has found exactly what Marc needs to be competitive again

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez has the entire world neatly in the palm of his hands, hanging off his every word as the saga around his future plans for 2024 seemingly nears its conclusion.

The eight-time world champion has a contract with Honda in MotoGP for next season, a fact he has repeatedly stated as uncertainty over his future continues. That hasn’t stopped shock links to Gresini Ducati emerging and persisting. They persist, however, because Marquez wants them to.

Insight: How Ducati could be the key to reviving Honda's fortunes with Marquez

By now, his struggles on the RC213V this season are well documented. His rather glum first impressions of Honda’s 2024 prototype he tried at the Misano test last week did nothing to dispel thoughts among many that he will, in fact, break contract with Honda. Then he tells Spanish media the day after that “the commitment is this: to try to succeed with Honda, whether in one year, two or three”.

At the Misano test he outlined his deadline for his decision for the next week or so, during either the Indian Grand Prix or the following round in Japan. The answer, then, is close. And at this stage, nobody is really sure what it will be.

Both options are a step into the unknown. Honda’s Misano test hasn’t exactly hinted of better days ahead. But this is the factory with whom he has won all of his MotoGP titles. It would be folly, even in the new world order of European marques and mentality, to write off HRC entirely.

But the Ducati is clearly the best bike on the grid right now, and even a year-old machine is capable of fighting for the title. And at least with the latter option, he has some insight.

Alex Marquez has been enjoying his best season ever in MotoGP with Ducati

Alex Marquez has been enjoying his best season ever in MotoGP with Ducati

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

His 27-year-old brother Alex Marquez went through the same disillusionment Marc is experiencing right now over the last two years with LCR Honda, and decided to walk away. He traded a factory contract – or what was, as he sarcastically remarked to Autosport at Misano, ‘supposed’ to be one – for a one-year deal with Gresini to ride a year-old Ducati. Specifically, the Ducati that took Francesco Bagnaia to the title last season.

In the first 12 rounds of 2023, Alex Marquez has scored a grand prix podium in Argentina after qualifying on pole, a sprint victory in a wet Silverstone race, and has earned more points (80) with just his Sunday results alone in 2023 than in each of his three full seasons with Honda.

“Much nicer than last year,” he tells Autosport when we ask him in the Gresini hospitality ahead of the San Marino GP about how life is as a Ducati rider. “I will say it like this. I never lost the motivation last year, but it’s true that when you don’t get results, when you don’t get help from a factory it’s difficult to go [forward], especially when you are on a bike that has many problem.

“But from the first day on the Ducati, the feeling was nice. The feeling with the factory and especially with Gigi, who is a really clever guy, [and speaks] directly to the riders. And this is something really nice. It was nice and much easier. This is the reality.”

"I was believing that the bike was the problem, but you need to check this because it’s true that in some moments last year that I had doubts about me" Alex Marquez

Gigi Dall’Igna. Ducati’s general manager and, really, the Italian marque’s saviour. This is not the first time his name has been interlinked with Marc Marquez’s future. He is, naturally, number one on Marquez’s and Honda’s hit list of European engineering talent to try and lure over.

Dall’Igna frequents all Ducati garages over a race weekend, listening to feedback from each of the marque’s seven riders. It's been a key element in the Desmosedici developing into the world beater it is now.

Marc’s lack of results comes from a lack of confidence on the current Honda. Whenever he pushes it to the level we are accustomed to seeing from him, and which earned him so much success, the bike bites hard. So now he rides within the confines of the bike, and the results show: 10th and 12th in the Austrian GP; 11th and 13th at the Catalan GP; 10th and seventh in the San Marino GP.

“The Honda is not so difficult to adapt to,” Alex Marquez notes, comparing the RC213V and the Ducati. “When you take the bike, it’s quite easy to adapt to. But the problem later is you lose the confidence really fast, because you have a strange crash, crashes you don’t expect, and that for a rider is difficult to understand many times”.

Alex Marquez says the Ducati is a confidence-inducing bike, whereas the Honda is the opposite

Alex Marquez says the Ducati is a confidence-inducing bike, whereas the Honda is the opposite

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

By contrast the Ducati, he explains, “gives you confidence” and “what is easier with the Ducati is having the confidence all the days”. As we’ve seen countless times in the past, when Marc Marquez is confident in his bike – whether it is good or not – he has always been able to fight for championships with it.

It’s easy to forget that in 2019 he won the championship with a 151-point advantage in the standings to Andrea Dovizioso, despite riding a bike that not a single other Honda rider could get a win out of and which effectively killed Jorge Lorenzo’s career. Marquez doesn’t need a perfect bike – he just needs one that he can understand.

But what is crucial in that is having the engineering corps around you who also understands what you need. That, Alex Marquez says, has been the biggest change he has gladly discovered upon his switch from Honda to Ducati.

“With the Japanese, when you have a problem – and with the European guys they will have a solution – they need three meetings to say that solution,” he explained. “Here [at Ducati], when you stop in the box and you say you have some problems, they already say to you the solution that they have. So, in terms of time it’s much easier to find the solutions and react in a big problem.

“This is something I really like – not being in three meetings, waiting for the afternoon maybe for FP2, still we don’t know what the solution is 100%. The Europeans are more direct and they say to you the solution much clearer.”

And this is why Marquez has been begging Honda team boss Alberto Puig to hunt down more European engineering staff to bring onto the project. Honda is slowly adapting to this change in working method, but it needs people from outside of its borders with completely different perspectives to kick things along.

Insight: The grim future facing MotoGP's struggling champions after vital test

Alex Marquez admits to Autosport that he had “doubts” in his mind as his time at Honda drew to a close.

“I was believing that the bike was the problem,” he says, “but you need to check this because it’s true that in some moments last year that I had doubts about me.”

Joining Ducati helped rid Alex Marquez of doubts that had built up during his spell at Honda

Joining Ducati helped rid Alex Marquez of doubts that had built up during his spell at Honda

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Those doubts were expunged when he first rode the Gresini Ducati at the Valencia test last November. The results that have followed, while acknowledging that they haven’t been what he needs to start demanding factory machinery from Ducati, show this.

As we conclude our interview with Alex Marquez, the inevitable difficult question comes up. He had to field it all day beforehand and was certainly expecting it. But we avoid the obvious question, and simply ask him this: if Marc is to come to Gresini, will the transition be easy?

Courteously, while also avoiding giving much credence to rumours, he leaves us with this: “So, honestly speaking, for sure if he comes to Ducati, for sure he will be fast. He’s Marc, he’s eight times world champion. He didn’t lose the speed. We saw it in Q1 in Montmelo.

“But it will not be easy, he will need time for sure.”

What will Marc's decision be?

What will Marc's decision be?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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