To say that the battleship Honda is navigating troubled waters is an understatement. The crisis it must face is plain for all to see and the numbers tell the rest of the story. In the standings, the best HRC rider is Rins with 14th place thanks to his victory at Austin, Marc Marquez is 19th with 15 points (2 more than Pedrosa who only did one wild card race), Mir even 25th with 5 points, all scored in the first race in Portimao, the rest is a parade of zeroes. In the constructors' standings Honda is fighting for the last position with Yamaha and for the moment it is ahead by just 5 points, while in the teams’ classification the factory team is last.
In this situation, anyone who has the possibility of escaping is doing so and in fact Alex Rins has already bidden farewell to the merry band of brothers, after having raced just 5 Grands Prix with the Japanese bike before seriously injuring his leg. Being able to win a race wasn't enough for the Spaniard, the RC213V immediately came knocking at the door with interest at Mugello and so it was better to leave. For a Yamaha, which is certainly not the benchmark in the category at the moment, but which at least doesn't send its riders to the infirmary.
Perhaps his brand mates are now looking at him with a little envy because that move either failed or was impossible for them. The embarrassment on Marquez's face at Silverstone was evident when asked about contacts with KTM (confirmed by group boss Pierer). He denied it, but without convincing anyone, not even himself.
After all, he didn't say anything wrong; after suffering the pains of hell with his arm injury, he found himself a bike that doesn't want to be competitive. No one can say that Marc didn't try, but he only made up for more injuries and crashes. At that point, he tried to explore other paths, but KTM has far too many riders and too few bikes, so there's nothing they can do for 2024.
Joan Mir is, if possible, in an even worse situation. After missing three GPs with a hand injury, he also admitted that he had even thought about retiring. “I would have regretted it,” he said. He too must think of a way to keep going, considering that in just 6 Grands Prix he has already picked up 13 crashes (last year, on the Suzuki, he crashed just 11 times in the whole season). Furthermore, the Majorcan would have no other place to go for next season, so the gruel he must eat is the one to keep racing.
Finally, there is Nakagami, Honda’s 'foot soldier'. The Japanese rider is completely devoted to the corporate cause, but even for him this is too much. At Sachsenring he found himself the only HRC rider in the race and, at Silverstone, he summed up the current objectives: "get to the end of the race and collect data". Like any tester, the same attitude that Marquez also had to adopt, let alone Taka.
For all of them (Rins excluded) some hope comes with a date on the calendar, September 11th. That day there will be the official tests at Misano and the prototype of the 2024 bike should arrive from Tokyo. No one is under the illusion of seeing the light, but at least some glow will help. 2023 is virtually over before it started for the Honda riders, next year will have to be the one of redemption, or there will be nobody left on the Japanese boat.