Honda is under pressure due to the Marquez case? This is laughable compared to the pressure Carmelo Ezpeleta is facing at the moment. Furthermore, the head of Dorna, unlike the Japanese manufacturer whose organization is extremely hierarchical (and therefore allows for a certain amount of passing the buck), is a centralizer and therefore for better or worse the problems or solutions are his stuff.
But what are the things that keep Carmelo from sleeping at night?
Let's leave aside the assumptions, even if it is true that when you think badly you are often right. So nothing about fantasy-finance with the investment fund that would like to sell the whole thing. Let's talk about practical problems.
The first one, of course, it shares with Honda, and it is Marquez. Ezpeleta has a goddamn need for competitive riders, but above all for the 'bad' hero. And this is Marc who is loved and hated in equal measure (especially by all the orphaned Valentino Rossi fans).
Today the riders are mostly, here kitty, woof-woof: they all love each other, at least apparently. Marquez, on the other hand, gets along with few and doesn't care what people, social media, and Honda itself think. He's the 'bad guy' that MotoGP needs.
At the same time, however, Carmelo needs not to displease Honda and its sponsor, Repsol too much and to do so he has even put a spoke in the wheels of KTM, a company that, like Ducati, is doing a lot for the championship.
Without the refusal to grant the Pierer-Beirer pairing two more bikes it would have solved two problems with one fell swoop: the position of young Acosta (on whom Dorna is already focussing for the post-Marquez period, via Spain, as always!) and the desire of Marc to abandon the HRC ship.
It was an illogical decision, because Marquez's importance is such that it still tips the scales towards him. And then: is it better for the show to lose a sponsor or a champion like Marc? The answer is up to you.
Also, why keep Suzuki’s two places empty? Waiting for an official manufacturer? But when? And who? It is impossible for anyone to enter with the current regulations, so the two places will be unused until 2026. And don't consider BMW: the German company has its problems in Superbike, where it is failing to win. For the moment it’s better they think about the new GS!
The MotoGP riders on a war footing for the calendar and Sprint race
The second issue to be resolved is that of the 2023 calendar, presented recently. The riders, even if the press has not given them the attention they deserved, are on a war footing, to the point of already thinking about a future representative for themselves. There are already names circulating: Aleix Espargaró and Sylvain Guintoli. Both excellent choices, the first more sanguine, the second more political, but in an excellent position and with a family situation that allows him not to be a victim of pressure.
We would be surprised if Ezpeleta didn't change the 2023 format, perhaps decreasing the number of Sprint races, also because the Sprints are just a sop to the TVs, but don't add anything to the show. And the spectators on the circuits are certainly not going to solve the problems of MotoGP which are, as follows: external visibility and a total lack of adequate management to make fresh money flow into the coffers not only of Dorna, but also of the teams and riders.
Which leads us to consider the fact that this year the riders were made to race twice as long, paying them the same amount agreed before the birth of the sprint races.
And let's leave aside the exponential increase in the number of incidents. In short: the riders are right to complain. Full stop.
Concessions for Honda and Yamaha at the centre of negotiations between Dorna and MSMA
That's all? Not by a long shot! There is also the problem of concessions for Honda and Yamaha at stake, even though according to their results and previous agreements they would not be entitled to them. The rival manufacturers, from Ducati to KTM, are stonewalling, and they are right given that both have invested a lot to be where they are. After all, it was Carmelo who invented concessions, from which the Borgo Panigale company benefitted at the time... and in fact Dall'Igna is softer on the subject, while the Austrians are still smarting from the refusal to allow them a fifth (and sixth) bike .
Ezpeleta will have to find a solution, but we are not too worried. MotoGP is not a republic, but a monarchy, albeit an enlightened one, so in the end a decision will be taken by force, as was the case with the Ducati rear lowering device, perfectly legal according to the regulations but thrown out thanks to the Golden vote of the Dorna boss.
The problem of the regulations: we cannot wait until 2027 to change
And so we arrive at the regulations, theoretically in the hands of a decision by the MSMA, but always with Dorna's hand. In recent days there have been meetings to find a solution in view of the expiry of the current agreement, dated at the end of 2026. Ducati likes the idea of a reduction in displacement to 850cc, others do not agree, but they need to find a meeting point on the reduction of performance and the engine is just one of the creators of it. Also in the dock are aerodynamics and, as a consequence of the arrival of downforce, braking. We expect changes in this sector too.
Everything OK, everything perfect: but what will be done in the next two years to avoid processions seeing as with the current regulation there is no longer any overtaking? You saw it, didn't you? It took Bagnaia, Bezzecchi and Zarco ages to overtake Miller and Marquez respectively. Today it is difficult to overtake when braking, the meters available to slow down have decreased, the tyres do not help (stressed by the large load which was not foreseen) and overtaking is only possible when, by dint of resistance, the rider in front is unable to put down all his power of acceleration.
If something doesn't change starting from 2024 we will probably still have a Ducati/KTM cup. While waiting for greater consistency from Aprilia. A championship of European manufacturers? Sure: only Marc Marquez's class allowed him to place his Honda in 7th position. The second Honda, that of Mir, is 13th and out of the points (of the Sprint), the first Yamaha, that of Quartararo, 15th. Honestly, it’s an unwatchable situation. But not for Honda and Yamaha, but for Marquez and Quartararo. As if in F1 Verstappen and Hamilton were driving around at the back. Madrid? We have a problem.
Manufacturers on the verge of a nervous breakdown: Yamaha
And we come to her, the former queen. Last but not least, as the Brits would say (who incidentally have disappeared from MotoGP, this is another problem, but we'll talk about it separately): Yamaha. Not only does it not work, but it is also the only manufacturer to field only two bikes. Which, with the current format, is a problem within the problem.
In this case Carmelo Ezpeleta can do very little, but certainly finding himself a world champion 15th in the Sprint – and tomorrow in the GP things won’t be any better – is making him reflect. Can the current MotoGP afford to literally waste a character like Fabio, who furthermore has the advantage given his past and his background of being loved by his compatriots, by the Spaniards, because he began his racing career there, and by the Italians thanks to ancestry?
And these are just the problems related to the sporting activities. There is more: marketing, communication. Dorna has already made enormous steps forward, there was the hiring of Dan Rossomondo from the NBA and we are starting to see something but, it must be said, the cliché 'power wears out those who don't have it' simply does not work in the case of Carmelo Ezpeleta.
And we haven’t even mentioned Superbike... Rea at Yamaha, Razgatlioglu at BMW which is permanently in trouble, Bassani at Kawasaki. Oh, I forgot…. 2024 Superbike runs the risk of being more interesting than MotoGP. At the moment...