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Opinion
MotoGP German GP

Why a MotoGP divorce is now the only option for Marquez and Honda

OPINION: Marc Marquez's bruising weekend at the German Grand Prix has seen his partnership with Honda hit its lowest ebb, one few believe there is any way back from now. With another year left on his contract and Honda moving at a glacial pace to fix its troubled bike, has the time come for Marquez to cut ties?

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team crash

Germany was presented as the best possible barometer to gauge the health of the Marc Marquez/Honda partnership. It was once virtually unbeatable, taking six MotoGP crowns out of seven between 2013 and 2019. But the conclusion drawn from last weekend's visit to the Sachsenring, where previously he had nothing but victories, is that the best option for his future is to consider going elsewhere.

In a day and a half, the Spaniard made two decisions that, knowing him even just a little, were undoubtedly among the most painful he has had to face in his life. 

The first was to back off in the sprint race, so as not to crash for the fifth time. After crossing the finish line in 11th, Marquez explained: "The balance didn't pay off. To risk for a podium is worth it, to finish seventh or tenth is not worth it." 

The crash he was trying to avoid on Saturday came the following day during the warm-up, and was caused by his bike's electronics. On a left-hand turn, Marquez was thrown into the air, started to roll in the gravel and ended up being hit by his bike.

During a visit to the track's medical centre, he was diagnosed with a small fracture in the thumb of his left hand, as confirmed by championship medical director Angel Charte. Despite the injury, Marquez got medical clearance to race, and that is why it was even more remarkable that an hour before the lights went out, he decided to withdraw and try again the following week at Assen.

Before meeting with reporters, Marquez locked himself in the motorhome with his team and met with Tetsuhiro Kuwata, HRC's director, who declined to make any statement on the matter.

"I don't feel ready to race," said the Honda rider, his face unhinged and almost disbelieving the decision he had just taken.

In this sense, no one should be misled: the reason that made Marquez decide not to take part in the race was neither the fracture in his hand nor the multiple bruises he had accumulated as a result of the repeated crashes. He did it out of frustration and because, after having always been cordial and respectful with Honda, he understood that there was no other way but to say enough was enough, to convey to the Japanese brand that he has reached his limit with the situation.

Marquez crashed five times over the German GP weekend, the latter leaving him with a fracture to his hand

Marquez crashed five times over the German GP weekend, the latter leaving him with a fracture to his hand

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The Catalan rider claims to be completely recovered from the problems with his right arm he badly broke in 2020 and has been insisting for some time that he is ready to fight for wins again. For too many months now he has been sending messages hinting that his priority was to remain loyal to Honda, with whom he signed a multi-million dollar contract that expires at the end of 2024. On the other hand, he has been asking for months that the most powerful factory in the championship gives him the necessary tools to at least have the option of standing up to the competition.

Of course, every time he has spoken about his future, he has also hinted that if he can't win with Honda, he'll find something else.

Speaking to Autosport last November, he said when asked about his future: “I feel a lot of respect for Honda, because the way that during these two years that I was injured, the way that we speak, the way that they take care of me was special. I know that was not normal, but it was special, and I will always have full respect for Honda.

“But now [at the end of] 2022, my mind is only on coming back to the top with Honda. Then of course if I cannot, because I feel like I don’t have the tools, I will try to find the best for me."

The first prototype of the 2024 bike is due to hit the track in the Misano test in September, and both the team and the rider's entourage already know that Honda has nothing new to offer him

It is unknown if Honda's lack of reaction is due to a matter of inability or disinterest, which would be even more worrying for the world championship. But, whether it is the former or the latter, it now is nearly impossible to find a compelling reason to try to convince Marquez to stay linked to HRC.

His spoken language does not make his frustration clear enough, but his gestures are devastating. And there were several of them in Germany. From 'flipping the bird' to his bike after a save in Turn 11 in practice in Germany, throwing gravel at the bike after another crash, or the image of weariness, despondency and despair, shaking his head leaning against the barriers, after crashing again in the warm-up.

Insight: Why the Marquez/Zarco spat shows the Honda situation is untenable 

What else needs to happen? The answer to this question is nothing, surely, because it is too late and he may have decided to seek a life elsewhere, as he has suggested.

Amid all the crashes, injuries, bumps, bruises, double visions and operations, Marquez is only looking to get back to winning, to feel competitive again and fight for the titles he used to collect. A rider like him is not prepared, nor programmed, to back off and let himself go as he did on Saturday. His debt to Honda, for respecting him during the two years he was injured, is more than paid, and giving the manufacturer another chance does not guarantee, far from it, a reaction of which there is no news.

Honda will give Marquez its first 2024 prototype in September to try, but hopes of improvement are slim

Honda will give Marquez its first 2024 prototype in September to try, but hopes of improvement are slim

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The first prototype of the 2024 bike is due to hit the track in the Misano test in September, and both the team and the rider's entourage already know that Honda has nothing new to offer him.

At this point, Marquez knows perfectly well that if he does not break up with Honda, he is condemned to two possible scenarios: either he fights against his own DNA and backs off as he did on Saturday in the Sachsenring sprint, or he crashes and risks getting seriously injured again, as he and Alex Rins have already experienced this year.

The relationship between Marquez and Honda has reached a dead end. So, the best option for the rider is a divorce. A split, if it happens, looks complicated taking into account the penalty he would have to face for breaking his contract before 2024, when the four-year agreement he signed in 2020 comes to an end. However, given how much money he has earned over the years - and taking into account some sponsors who would be willing to lend a hand - breaking contract would not be a big problem for Marquez.

In any case, staying as he is now is not in anyone's interest. Neither for him, nor for Red Bull, which has gained weight in the planning of his future, much less for the championship, which sees its main attraction as a badly wounded lion.

Honda's woes and Marquez's frustrations lead to only one logical conclusion for this partnership: divorce

Honda's woes and Marquez's frustrations lead to only one logical conclusion for this partnership: divorce

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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