Why Honda, after Marquez's four-year term, is going after Pol Espargarò

In Honda they are not happy about only winning with Magic Marc. They want to go back to the period of Doohan when they placed five bikes in the top five places. But it is the obsessive search by Ducati – still without a leader – that is animating the market


Thinking wrongly is a sin, but it is often …spot on.

It is a phrase attributed to Italian statesman Giulio Andreotti, who understood a lot about politics. And what is the rider transfer market, if not politics?

And what is politics? In our opinion, the art of making shared decisions the result of which is to improve the state of affairs for the ruling party.

Let's forget about the common interest, it doesn't exist. Instead, the interest of the various groups exists. So in MotoGP politics is the individual interest of the single manufacturers.

Can we politically make a decision that does not favour us as an individual, but which disadvantages the opposition? Of course one can, indeed one must!

This was our impression, yesterday, when putting 2 and 2 together before the live broadcast that saw us involved with Alberto Vergani, we had the confirmation that Honda - or rather: Alberto Puig - was talking to Pol Espargarò.

Today everyone is talking about it, but nobody has yet given a valid explanation for an apparently incomprehensible move. And not only because it puts the younger Marquez in a corner without having even taken part in a race.

2020 is a transitional world championship, and in 2021 the only changes allowed are the riders

The fact is that even if we race with a smaller calendar, nobody cares about this 2020 world championship. It is a transitional championship, which will take up half the year and will be a kind of long autumn test session with the manufacturers committed to finding the best solutions to tackle 2021. A season during which very few technical changes will be granted, the most important of which will be the rider.

In motorcycling the rider still counts for quite a bit. He makes a big difference and, it seems clear to me, that Honda has the best rider around at the moment ... but where are the others? Cal Crutchlow in 2019 finished in 9th place, a full 287 points behind Magic Marc!

At the same time Ducati placed Dovi (2nd), Petrucci (6th) and Miller (8th); Yamaha Vinales (3rd), Quartararo (5th) and Rossi (7th); Suzuki Rins (4th) and an improving Mir (12th) 41 points from Cal.

Alberto Puig with the signing of Alex Marquez at the end of 2019 has not finished his job

It therefore seems clear to us that Alberto Puig, with the signing of Alex Marquez at the end of last year, does not believe he has finished his job, also because the fourth Honda man, Takaaki Nakagami finished way down in 13th place.

Honda is a great team? Not at all. Simply a team with a phenomenon in its line-up.

But we know that Honda likes to win, that much is true, but in order to show that its bike is the best, and at this moment it can't – unlike when it won the world championship in 1998 in front of the other Hondas of Biaggi, Criville, Checa and Barros . Five Hondas in the top five!

A rarity? Quite the opposite: in the previous season the world championship saw Doohan ahead of Okada, Nobuatsu Aoki, Criville, Takuma Aoki.

And in 1996? Again Doohan, Criville, Cadalora, Barros.

Honda dominated when it placed five riders in the top five places, not like now

I mean, that was dominating, not what it’s doing now. Because if we look at the standings of the last few seasons, the best placement, in the year of a riders’ championship victory, was obtained in 2013 with Pedrosa's third place. Then in 2014 with Dani's fourth place. Result repeated in 2017.

That is why Marquez's victories in the world championship cannot be enough for Puig; even if he says different things in public, privately he is trying to strengthen the team which, as we wrote recently when we referred to the 'long reserve bench' (in football terms), is no longer just the factory Repsol team, but also the satellite team. Two plus two, not just the two inside and that’s all.

Long reserve bench: even Yamaha has relocated Valentino Rossi!

Then, in some way, he will sort them out, as all the factory manufacturers are doing or have done. Hasn’t Yamaha relocated Valentino Rossi in the Petronas satellite team?

This then is the new policy: a long bench of ‘reserves’ because no one, not even Honda, can afford to present themselves on the grid with a soloist, even if one of the calibre of Marc Marquez.

We can imagine the meetings in Japan, where, irrespective of Marc's successes, the bosses’ fingers point down the rankings looking for the second placed Honda and they can only find it towards the bottom of the page...

Ducati, without Dovizioso's signature, is also going after Pol Espargarò

If you want to clutch at straws, you simply have to find better riders. And that's what Puig is trying to do. And that's why Jorge Lorenzo was released so easily: a bike had to be liberated. No more bad impressions or embarassments!

No one, however, can take it away from us that right now the manufacturer that is throwing peanuts into the pigeon house, thus animating the market, is Ducati. The Italian manufacturer is also being held prisoner by a single rider, Andrea Dovizioso who, moreover, unlike Marquez, is throwing a fit about his renewal. And the market doesn't offer that much in alternative. As a result, you have to grab something free while you can.

The result is a domino effect that – incredibly, with the bikes still in the garage! - is moving everything. After all, without any races, one cannot but base one’s decisions on everything that we have seen so far. However the 2020 world championship pans out, what really matters is the restart next year.

 

 

Related articles