With eight Grands Prix left until the end of this year’s world championship, Honda and Ducati are faced with two difficult decisions to make, and both concern who will compete alongside those who (at the moment) are the designated first riders: Marc Marquez and Pecco Bagnaia.
HRC actually decided some time ago: Joan Mir, two-time world champion, will join Marc Marquez in 2023.
The decision has not yet been made official because there have been lengthy negotiations between the Japanese bosses and Paco Sanchez, the manager of the Majorcan. So tense that at one point Sanchez even threatened a sabbatical for his protégé.
That money was a stumbling block, moreover, was understood when Mir, through Sanchez, had refused an offer of three million dollars from Suzuki manager Livio Suppo when the retirement of the Hamamatsu manufacturer was still to happen.
After the retirement, however, Paco Sanchez had refused to 'sell off' Joan, but on the other hand HRC could not promise anything given that its contract with Repsol, which has supported the Japanese giant continuously since 1995, was itself expiring. Now that the oil company seems willing to confirm the sponsorship for another two seasons, until the end of 2024 therefore, the marriage can be celebrated even if it seems that the retainer fee has gone up, but not as much as the Spanish pair would have liked.
The announcement is expected shortly but it is not certain that it will be made official at the Red Bull Ring where the presence of Marc Marquez will dominate, from a media point of view. More likely before Misano.
The latter is also a date scheduled by Ducati for the long-standing decision to choose between Martin and Bastianini, with a big difference: both riders, since Jerez, have received and signed a contract thanks to which they are already official riders today with a contract with six zeros.
Both Jorge and Enea have made no secret of both wanting the red livery, but with the moonbeams going around, and in their hands a competitive bike like the Ducati, they are making the best of a bad situation.
After all, if Ducati had only to look at this year's placings, it would have already chosen, and the Italian overtaking the Spaniard at Silverstone at the end of the Grand Prix was, as suggested by the 'Bestia' after the race, a suggestion to those who must decide.
The reality is that we are talking about a highly unpopular decision for the Borgo Panigale manufacturer to which the marketing undoubtedly suggests the Bagnaia-Martin combination, much more appreciated by Pecco himself. The Red Bull Ring and Misano, therefore, are the last two races in which the Spaniard can legitimize his choice with two good performances. Only after at least two podiums (in front of the Beast) will Ducati feel a bit freer to decide. But let's face it: we would have liked a little more courage from Ducati in their actions and choices.