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The timeline of Marquez's bombshell split with Honda in MotoGP

On Wednesday, Honda announced the bombshell news that it had agreed to part ways with eight-time world champion Marc Marquez at the end of the 2023 MotoGP season.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

The Marquez/Honda tie-up has been one of immense success. Bringing the Moto2 champion up to MotoGP in 2013, Honda reaped the rewards instantly as the Spaniard scored his first grand prix victory in just his second race.

Marquez would go on to win that year's world championship as a rookie before dominating in 2014 for title number two. A mistake-riddled 2015 saw him knocked off his perch, but the learnings from this campaign fuelled four years of domination for Marquez as he won the titles from 2016 to 2019.

Injury woes in 2020 and 2021 plagued his chances, but since regaining full fitness the Honda has not been up to scratch in terms of competitiveness.

A frustrating campaign in 2023 that has so far yielded one grand prix podium led to intense speculation that Marquez would leave Honda a year earlier than his contract had to run.

That has come to pass, with the eight-time world champion now set to move to Gresini next season to race a year-old Ducati.

It is a story that has gripped the motorsport world for the last few months, but the path to Marquez's shock Honda exit and the ending of a MotoGP empire did not happen overnight.

The 2020 Spanish GP, where Marquez would badly break his right arm

The 2020 Spanish GP, where Marquez would badly break his right arm

Photo by: Repsol Media

Sunday 19 July 2020. Spanish Grand Prix

The beginning of the end can be traced back to the day that changed the course of MotoGP. Ahead of the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, Marquez had signed a four-year contract with Honda in the winter rumoured to have been worth €100m. It was a deal that seemingly signalled the total strength of the partnership.

When the COVID pandemic emerged just weeks later, it wreaked havoc worldwide and also in the MotoGP World Championship, which had no choice but to adapt to the restrictions of movement imposed, and completely rewrite its calendar to base itself in Europe.

At Jerez, during the first race of the delayed season, Marquez fractured his right humerus in a crash that prevented him from completing one of the most brutal comebacks in living memory, having recovered to the podium places following a run off track early in the race.

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After undergoing surgery the following Tuesday, the rider decided to try and ride four days later, again at the Andalusian circuit, although the sensations he felt in his arm led him not to take part beyond the fourth free practice of that second round. He could hardly have guessed then that he had just crossed the threshold of the door to the darkest place he had ever been. The titanium plate that held his bone in place could not withstand the stress of the strain it was subjected to, and snapped off while at home.

Then came two more operations that kept him on intermittent sick leave for a year and a half. During his absence Honda lost its compass, and the evolution of the RC213V took a different path to the one it had followed with him. Thus, the path to last Wednesday's announcement was laid.

Marquez's first win since his injury was an emotional one

Marquez's first win since his injury was an emotional one

Photo by: Dorna

Sunday 21 June 2021. German Grand Prix

A respite from so much pain. Despite racing with a considerable limitation of movement in his right arm, the Spaniard wins again a race in Germany, until then his talismanic circuit along with Austin. Both on the podium and in the interviews after the victory, the Honda rider, who until that moment knew how to create a screen to camouflage his feelings, collapses and cannot help crying.

Before ending the world championship prematurely - he suffered from diplopia problems after a fall while training - the #93 rider added two more victories, in Texas and Misano. Even with his physical limitations, Marquez was proving his class and the issues he was to face with Honda had yet to show.

Marquez goes for a fourth major operation on his arm in the summer of 2022

Marquez goes for a fourth major operation on his arm in the summer of 2022

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Thursday 2 June 2022. The final operation

Marquez decides to travel to Minnesota, in the United States, to undergo a fourth operation at the Mayo Clinic, where Dr. Joaquin Sanchez Sotelo corrects the rotation of more than 30% of his humerus, which prevented him from riding in a more or less conventional way.

The operation is considered a success, and after missing six grand prix, the rider from Cervera reappears in Aragon. The Honda rider took that final part of the season as a preparation, in order to arrive physically well to the next pre-season. But even in this state, Marquez managed to score a pole position in a wet Japanese GP qualifying and was second in the Australian GP.

At the time, while the bike was far from the best on the grid, in Marquez's hands he was delivering it better results than the rest of the Honda stable.

The first tests of the new bike do nothing to fill Marquez with optimism

The first tests of the new bike do nothing to fill Marquez with optimism

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Pre-season and first races of 2023. Alarm bells are ringing

Marquez appears at the Sepang tests with the need to gain muscle in his arm, but little by little he is strengthening the area. Despite not being at 100% of his capacity, he begins to feel more limited by the lack of traction of his bike than by his physical condition. That relationship will increasingly underline the shortcomings of the RC213 as the days go by.

The podium in the first sprint race, in Portugal, anticipated a crash, already on Sunday, which would serve as a metaphor for what was to follow: Marquez riding beyond the possibilities of his bike. The fracture in his hand resulting from that accident in the grand prix led him again to miss three rounds. When he reappeared in France, he crashed again.

The same outcome (accident) was repeated in the following round in Italy, again while he was pushing the Honda beyond its limits to fight for the podium. His messages about Honda's lack of reaction are becoming less and less subliminal and more direct: "It is difficult to know what is happening in Japan, but since the start of the season we have only received a new chassis, little else".

The nadir of the season was yet to come, however...

Marquez holds meetings with Honda's top brass in Italy

Marquez holds meetings with Honda's top brass in Italy

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Sunday 11 June 2023. The beginning of the end

After multiple warnings to HRC management and the occasional public dressing-down, Marquez meets at Mugello with Shinji Aoyama, Honda Motor's second-highest-ranking executive, to whom he conveys that his frustration has a limit.

"The meeting went well; meetings always go well. Then we'll see what happens," Marquez replied, when asked by Autosport about the meeting. Two more meetings followed in Britain and Austria with Hikaru Tsukamoto, head of the company's two-wheel division, to whom the multi-champion asked for structural changes within HRC's technical division, in order to be able to measure up to the European manufacturers.

"It's not me who has to choose the technical staff; I'm just the rider," he stressed every time he was asked about it.

Marquez crashes five times in Germany, at a track he has won at every year in MotoGP

Marquez crashes five times in Germany, at a track he has won at every year in MotoGP

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Sunday 18 June 2023. The Sachsenring nightmare

At one of Marquez's favourite venues - where he had won every year in his MotoGP career - is where he hits rock bottom, suffering five crashes in two and a half days of riding.

After the fifth, during the warm-up on Sunday morning, he decided to get off the bike and not take part in the grand prix.

"The balance didn't pay off. Risking for a podium is worth it, but not for a seventh or tenth place finish," he said.

That decision was a major change in the traditional approach of a rider who had never before cut the throttle for fear of crashing or hurting himself. The general rethinking took on even more weight at Assen, a week later, where he also left without racing after discovering a crack in his ribs.

Marquez wasn't happy with what Honda brought to the Misano test, making an exit seem more likely now

Marquez wasn't happy with what Honda brought to the Misano test, making an exit seem more likely now

Photo by: MotoGP

August and September 2023. An agonising uncertainty

Gresini's refusal to finalise who will be Alex Marquez's team-mate in 2024 begins to raise suspicions. At first, Marc Marquez is limited to repeat, actively and passively, that he has a contract with Honda for another season.

Already in the winter of 2022, Marquez told Autosport in an exclusive interview that, while his dream was to remain with Honda and win, "my biggest dream" is to win the world championship. And if Honda couldn't provide him with the tools he needed, he was open to looking elsewhere.

However, the passing of the days and races and the lack of reaction from Honda lead him to openly acknowledge that he is considering not to continue wearing the HRC suit.

From his position he simply repeats that he is working "to improve the project for the future", although he does not specify if he will be part of it. The test after the San Marino Grand Prix is, according to a member of Marquez's garage, "a real disaster". The rider does not see the prototype planned for 2024 as a success and his departure seems more and more feasible.

A return to the podium in Japan does nothing to change his mind

A return to the podium in Japan does nothing to change his mind

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

2023 Indian and Japanese Grand Prix. The divorce is consummated

Honda's managers fail to complete the hiring plan, basically of European engineers, with which they hoped to convince Marquez to at least respect the remaining year of his contract.

In India the dismissal of Shinichi Kokubo as general technical Director, and his replacement by Shin Sato, another member of the HRC engineering team, who until then was in charge of the RC213V development folder, was completed.

After interpreting that this change will not alter anything, Marquez lands in Tokyo with the intention of ending his 11-year relationship with Honda.

The brand respects the word given and does not hold him back. After several meetings in Motegi, both parties agreed "by mutual agreement" to end the most successful partnership in the history of the constructor.

On Wednesday 4 October 2023, their divorce is made public...

The 11-year partnership is over...

The 11-year partnership is over...

Photo by: Dorna

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