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Why Marquez's departure is the least of Honda's MotoGP problems

While losing a talent like Marc Marquez will leave a void, the six-time MotoGP world champion staying wouldn't have solved the real problem Honda is reluctant to face.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

With Wednesday's announcement confirming the Spaniard's departure at the end of this season, Honda now faces the very complicated scenario of having to find a replacement for the most successful rider in its history.

If we take into account that pretending to win with the change is an impossible mission, the reality is that it doesn't matter if who arrives is Johann Zarco, Iker Lecuona, Pedro Acosta or the best version of Mick Doohan.

If anything has been made clear by Marquez before deciding to leave his "comfort zone", as he himself defined just a few days ago to his lifelong brand, is that the main problem to be solved by HRC is not the human variable of the equation.

Especially this season, in which, for the first time in three years, he has managed to return to riding without any physical limitations.

His departure from Honda, the biggest force in the world championship, with which he has won his six MotoGP titles and in which he leaves his "family", as he considers the human group led by crew chief Santi Hernandez, is both a gesture of courage and surrender.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Leaving an empire like the Japanese to join a satellite team, where presumably a Ducati from the previous year awaits him, is unquestionably a sign of the former. Doing so out of frustration at being unable to open the eyes of those in charge of the Japanese manufacturer, also has something of the latter.

Not even the obvious similarities with the bad moment Yamaha is going through have had any kind of awakening effect.

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Marquez's slamming of the door is only indicative of the idiosyncrasy that moves the Tokyo-based company, which has preferred to lose one of its most universal faces, one of the best sportsmen ever, rather than surrender to the evidence that has been imposed in a championship dominated lately by the European marques, and by the interpretation they make of the regulations.

Before announcing his decision to leave Honda earlier this week, #93 gave HRC executives room to shake up the technical department, and put in place a plan to hire specialist engineers in the most relevant areas (aerodynamics, electronics, etc.), so that he would reconsider his impulse to leave.

The response to that demand was the dismissal before the Indian Grand Prix of Shinichi Kokubu, until then general technical director, and the promotion in his place of Shin Sato, who until then had been in charge of the development of the RC213V.

The expression that best defines how the bulk of the team interpreted this change of cards is: out of the frying pan and into the fire. Or, in other words, the stamp on Marquez's passport to Gresini.

Contrary to what some may think, the Catalan has not had a bad time in recent weeks, in which he was debating whether to complete the last year of the four years he signed in February 2020, or embark on an adventure with an uncertain future.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Even among the members of his closest entourage there were discrepancies. While some understood that it wasn't worth the trouble to take an escape route that could be limited to a single season (2024), others encouraged him to follow his heart.

"At the moment," one of Marquez's entourage told Autosport, "he doesn't think he's going to fight for the title. His only objective is to get back to enjoying riding a motorcycle."

Regardless of which side of the garage you talk to, whether you belong to the Repsol-sponsored structure or the LCR, the conclusion is always the same.

"At Honda they don't understand that either they change their attitude and let themselves be helped, or there is nothing to do," replies to the writer of these lines a member of Lucio Cecchinello's team, who now fears that the intrusiveness of the bosses will leave them without Zarco.

"What happened is just another example, even more serious, of what happened with Alex Rins," says an authorized HRC voice, who obviously prefers not to give his name.

"If Alex had not felt mistreated, he would probably now be the best possible replacement for Marc," adds this source, convinced that the only way out of this dynamic in which the most powerful manufacturer in the paddock is involved is through a change of mentality that is difficult to come from within.

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