Marc Márquez’s sensational defection from Honda to join Ducati satellite squad Gresini could be secured as soon as this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, according to Ducati sporting director Paolo Ciabatti.
However, Ciabatti said Ducati had no role in negotiations to move the six-time MotoGP champion to Faenza, with the matter resting solely with management at Gresini.
Márquez’s future has been the season’s most significant storyline, with the Spaniard growing publicly frustrated with the Honda bike’s lack of competitiveness and wild unpredictability.
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Rumour that the premier-class career Honda rider could leave the Japanese marque peaked earlier this month, when Spanish and Austrian media reported a deal to move to Gresini was on the table to replace Fabio di Giannantonio, albeit with different outlets reporting different stages of completion.
Speculation cooled, however, after Honda team manager Alberto Puig confirmed the Márquez camp had given no private indication that the Spaniard intended to leave.
Márquez was subsequently provided with Honda’s 2024 prototype bike for the post-race test in Misano, a move unlikely to have happened had Márquez already told the company that he would be leaving next season.
But it was Márquez himself who reignited rumours with his comments following that test, leaving the door wide open to a split being confirmed as soon as this month.
“Sometimes you can change,” he said, per The Race. “I have two plans, and now I need to choose a plan.
“Of course there is a deadline. Around India and Japan I will decide.”
Speaking at the weekend’s Indian Grand Prix, Ciabatti indicated that Gresini was the second of Márquez’s “two plans” and that negotiations were ongoing.
“As far as Gresini goes, I think it looks like they have this opportunity and they are waiting for Márquez’s decision,” he told the MotoGP broadcast.
Referring to earlier Márquez statements about having as many as three possible plans for 2024, Ciabatti said Gresini was the most obvious alternative to another year with the factory Honda team.
“This is what we hear,” he said. “I think everybody knows. I mean, there are no other options left. It’s the only bike without a rider and Márquez says he has three options.
“You should ask Marc Márquez and Gresini what is going on.”
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Ciabatti also suggested that a decision would be made this week when MotoGP travels to Motegi for the Japanese Grand Prix.
“He will talk to Honda management in Japan and make a decision,” he said. “But it’s something up to him and the team.
“We as Ducati have our four contracted riders [at the factory and Pramac teams].
“It’s nothing that we are negotiating.”
It’s a notable softening of Ducati’s formerly defensive posture over a possible Márquez move onto one of its bikes, with he Italian brand having previously insisted its broader constellation of satellites were focused on young riders who could be fed into the factory team.
Team manager Davide Tardozzi told Spanish broadcaster DAZN at the weekend that he would have no problem with Gresini inducting Márquez into the Ducati fold.
“If Marc comes to Ducati, it’s fine with us,” he said. “We like Marc. Everyone loves Marc. He’s an eight-time world champion. Marc is the past, the present and the future.
“Gresini has the right to choose the best rider possible, and if Marc proposes himself, they have the right and duty to take him into consideration. No one knows what will happen at this moment.”
Márquez refused to be drawn on Ducati’s comments, playing his usual straight bat to speculation about a potential contract break for 2024.
“Nobody is inside my head,” he said. “I said already at the Misano test that only one, two, three people around me know what I’m thinking.
“I’m very clever and I know what I need and I know what I want.”
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But the Spaniard did admit that the decision-making process behind a potential Honda split wouldn’t be as straightforward as him pulling up stumps at the end of the year.
Márquez is racing with HRC on reportedly the most lucrative contract in MotoGP history, with rider and team having made a long-term commitment to one another at the end of their dominant 2019 campaign.
Honda stuck by him through his injury woes of 2020–22, and it’s the team that brought Márquez all six of his premier-class titles, having blooded him as a MotoGP rookie in 2013.
“I’m looking for the best for everybody, not only for me,” Márquez said, per Autosport.
“Of course we are a team, and when you are a team you are not alone, and you need to think not only about you.
“You need to think about everybody, about Honda, about what we did, where we are, where we are going to arrive. It’s inside my head what I’m thinking, but this big important decision, you cannot make it from one day to the other. It’s a process.”
Honda has already said it wouldn’t stand in the way of an early termination, but Márquez’s comments might suggest that he’s waiting to ensure Honda has a rider line-up in place to take his seat.
Conventional wisdom suggests Johann Zarco would move up from LCR to the factory team alongside Joan Mir, with Iker Lecuona moving shuffling into the satellite squad behind him.
Regardless of the potential to seal his future this week, Márquez said the public shouldn’t expect an announcement during the grand prix weekend.
“I won‘t communicate my choice at Motegi, because there I will have to be 100 per cent concentrated on the track,” he said.
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