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MotoGP German GP

10 things we learned from the 2023 MotoGP German GP

The intra-Ducati battle for the 2023 MotoGP title intensified at the fast sweeping Sachsenring as Jorge Martin ended a two-year grand prix win drought to defeat reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia. But a nightmare weekend for Marc Marquez at his traditional happy hunting ground could have similarly weighty ramifications.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team crash

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Jorge Martin announced himself as a true MotoGP title threat with a double victory at the German Grand Prix. The Pramac Ducati rider went without a grand prix victory since the 2021 Styrian GP, but finally took a full 25 points after beating Francesco Bagnaia in a thrilling scrap. A win in the sprint meant Martin left Germany with a maximum haul of 37 points and is now just 16 behind Bagnaia in the standings.

But the big talking point of the weekend was the misery Marc Marquez suffered, as five crashes on his Honda ultimately forced him to pull out of the grand prix. At a venue he has won at every year he has raced it in MotoGP, it marked a new low for the Honda/Marquez relationship.

Here are the 10 things we learned from the 2023 MotoGP German GP.

1. Honda is wasting Marquez’s time after Germany hell

Marquez had previously won on every time he'd raced at the Sachsenring in MotoGP, but his nadir last weekend showed how far Honda has fallen

Marquez had previously won on every time he'd raced at the Sachsenring in MotoGP, but his nadir last weekend showed how far Honda has fallen

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The 2023 German Grand Prix feels like a turning point in the Marquez/Honda relationship with the partnership that has yielded 59 victories and six world titles now looking like it is hanging by a thread.

Honda’s struggles in 2023 have been well documented. The current RC213V is fast carving out a reputation as a bone smasher, with Alex Rins breaking his leg in a crash in Mugello, Joan Mir suffering fractures to his hand, and Marquez one to his thumb in Germany.

Five crashes in a weekend in which Marquez was expected to bat away the Honda’s issues for a brief spell and do what he always does at the Sachsenring (11 times, in fact) – win - was not what anyone expected. The fact that the best he could come away with was an 11th in a sprint in which he rode to the limit of the Honda, tells you everything you need to know about how bad the bike is and why Marquez has crashed so much already this season.

As he explained after the sprint, the risk you need to take on the Honda to get a result usually results in a crash, as he demonstrated at Mugello and Le Mans while fighting for a podium. After his fifth crash of the weekend in the warm-up, bringing his season tally to 12 – putting him equal with team-mate Mir – he simply told the media “I don’t feel ready to race”.

That was taken at face value, in that he was sitting out the German GP. Analysing it further, at the time of writing, there’s nothing to suggest Marquez won’t sit out Assen to spare himself from the mental anguish he is going through. Marquez put himself through four major operations on the right arm he broke in 2020 to be competitive again. He has upheld his end of the bargain – Honda hasn’t repaid him in kind.

Unsurprisingly, debate about whether Marquez should see out his Honda contract to the end of 2024 raged. His buyout clause would likely be massive and his options for a ride elsewhere next year are incredibly slim. Given that he races to win, however, money will be of little concern should he wish to explore that option.

Honda was left with one competitor for the German GP on Sunday, which was Takaaki Nakagami on the LCR-run bike. He was 14th, 25.3s off the win, and was rattled by Marquez’s Sunday crash.

The scenes of Marquez standing trackside after his fifth spill, helmet on but with the dejection plain to see, was symbolic of where his head is at now. Honda has let him down and there may be no way back now.

2. Marquez’s determination remains admirable

Marquez's toils did not go unnoticed down the grid, with Quartararo congratulating the Spaniard on his determination

Marquez's toils did not go unnoticed down the grid, with Quartararo congratulating the Spaniard on his determination

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

What shouldn’t be forgotten through all of the crashes and general misery of the Marquez situation is that his determination hasn’t wavered. His final spill aside, which Nakagami said was hard to explain having followed him at that moment in the warm-up, each of them came as he was trying to push.

His FP2 tumble, which resulted in a war of words with Johann Zarco after it wiped him out, came as he was trying to set a lap time to get straight into Q2. Marquez's three crashes in qualifying were the result of him trying to first get out of Q1, and then push for more than seventh on the grid. As 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo pointed out: “Who crashes five times just to try to be better, to try to be on top?”

“Of course, it’s difficult for him because I can totally understand that since 2020 with the injury… he’s been on the podium since, of course,” the Yamaha rider added. “But, for me, he’s the best. I have no words about him. He’s giving his 100% all the time.

“He’s mentally for me one of the strongest here, and one moment has arrived where you get injured. He broke his thumb this morning, so I can understand he’s pushing himself to the maximum. It’s strange to say this, but congratulations for what he is doing.”

3. Martin has stepped up at the right time

Martin has found his form at Pramac to firmly put his 2022 woes to bed

Martin has found his form at Pramac to firmly put his 2022 woes to bed

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

As we wrote in our post-Italian GP 10 things article, Jorge Martin was starting to show the form he needed but still had a step to make. He did so in a big way in Germany.

Doing the sprint and grand prix double, the latter result marked his first Sunday victory in MotoGP since his maiden success at the 2021 Styrian GP as a rookie. The Pramac Ducati rider was unlucky in qualifying with yellow flags leaving him sixth on the grid, but it proved no barrier to him as he carved through to the lead on lap four of the sprint before darting off to a 2.4-second advantage at the chequered flag.

His grand prix was a bit tougher, as he had to lock horns with reigning world champion Francesco Bagnaia. The factory Ducati rider didn’t make it easy, and almost tangled with him at the last corner on the penultimate lap. Martin wasn’t thrown off his stride though, and got to the flag 0.064s in front.

This has been building for a while, with Martin consistently on the podium in both races since Le Mans. It also showed his 2022 struggles, in which he scored just four podiums and was ultimately overlooked for a factory Ducati seat, were purely down to the bike.

Having to run the full 2022-spec engine in his Pramac-run Ducati, the aggressiveness of the motor gave him rear grip problems all year. The 2023-spec bike he is on now does everything better, with Martin noting his various outbraking moves at the Sachsenring wouldn’t have been possible last year.

Bagnaia noted on Saturday after the sprint that Martin was doing exactly what he expected of him now. And after Germany, it seems like ‘the real’ Jorge Martin has arrived – a dangerous prospect for Bagnaia’s title defence.

4. Quartararo’s trust in Yamaha has clearly eroded

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

The hole the Japanese manufacturers have found themselves in is severely hampering two of the grid’s fastest riders. While Marquez’s struggles steal the headlines, Fabio Quartararo’s Yamaha woes show no signs of improving.

Having settled on 2021 settings for his lacklustre 2023 machine for this triple-header, it hasn’t done anything to boost results. The Frenchman was 13th in the sprint having lost a load of places off the line when he was forced to shut off the throttle as Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro forced Ducati’s Enea Bastianini to chop his nose.

For the grand prix, Quartararo gambled on the soft rear tyre (along with Espargaro) to try and salvage something. The tyre faded and he was only 13th, finishing behind team-mate Franco Morbidelli. As far as the 2021 world champion was concerned, 10th was his maximum on the medium, and finishing 13th on a gamble made no difference to accepting 10th.

With work on Yamaha’s 2024 bike already thought to be under way, Quartararo admitted he doesn’t have much confidence that it will give him the gains he needs. And that is concerning for a Yamaha squad that could lose its prized asset for 2025.

“It’s a lot of years that we are waiting for something big, a big change, so hopefully they can really provide us a really, really good bike for next year," he said. "But of course, I’m not confident [based on] the last years’ evolution. It’s difficult to be confident when you are fighting for these positions. In the pre-season they worked hard, but we could not find any improvement.

“So, you know that they work hard but you don’t know if you’re going to reach an improvement. They work hard and this is the most important thing, but hopefully they find the correct thing to make a step for the end of the year and for next year.”

5. Ducati domination isn’t its fault

Ducati has treated customer teams as partners, making the Italian manufacturer an attractive destination

Ducati has treated customer teams as partners, making the Italian manufacturer an attractive destination

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The 2023 German GP was notable for it being the first time in MotoGP history that the top five spots in the main race were locked out by Ducatis. With Jorge Martin winning from Francesco Bagnaia, Johann Zarco in third and VR46 duo Marco Bezzecchi and Luca Marini trailing, sixth was where the first non-Ducati of KTM’s Jack Miller could be found.

It showed the progress Ducati has made over the years with its bike, given its last German GP success came in 2008 and in the lean years that followed, it wasn’t exactly conventional wisdom to expect a repeat.

Ducati has won all but one grand prix in 2023 and all but two of the sprints from the first even rounds. Some riders over the weekend noted that MotoGP is “boring” now, and there are various factors at play (more on that later).

One thing that is definitely turning off casual viewers is the apparent Ducati domination. What’s pertinent to remember is this is not of Ducati’s making. Its structure of having four factory-supported bikes on the grid across two teams, and two satellite teams with important Ducati input has been “key” to its success, according to Bagnaia.

The fact Ducati treats its customer teams as genuine partners made it more attractive to the likes of Gresini and VR46 than other manufacturers, while the competitiveness of the bike is superior. If Ducati wants to pay to have eight bikes on the grid and the satellite squads are happy to lease the machinery, that can’t be faulted.

Of course, Dorna could intervene and limit the number of bikes each manufacturer can run (as it looked to do a few years ago when there were six marques). But the onus to overturn the Ducati-fest at the front of the grid is on its rivals to up their game.

6. MotoGP is quickly outgrowing the Sachsenring

Are modern MotoGP bikes too quick for the poky Sachsenring layout?

Are modern MotoGP bikes too quick for the poky Sachsenring layout?

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

MotoGP bikes have become frighteningly fast, with Brad Binder setting a new top speed record of 227.483mph at Mugello on his KTM. In terms of size and layout, you can’t get much different to Mugello and Sachsenring. And perhaps this is going to start being a problem.

A number of riders suffered some fast crashes during the German GP weekend, while the controversial tangle between Marc Marquez and Johann Zarco, as the latter exited pitlane, raised questions about the suitability of the Sachsenring for modern MotoGP.

“It is really small,” Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro said. “It’s very, very, very small and very stressful for the riders, and the lap finishes quite quick. I’m fast, but I don’t really enjoy riding here.

“But the good thing is that some riders will like it, some riders will prefer super long and fast tracks, some others will prefer twisty places. We have to race in different places, different circuits. If it’s not a matter of safety, it’s ok, and I think this track for the moment is safe.”

The pitlane exit’s awkward design isn’t easily rectified, while the proximity of barriers means that when the day comes that they need to be moved back, there will be some problems.

Sachsenring’s quirky layout of 10 left corners and three right make it a unique challenge and one that generally offers good racing. Preserving circuits like this should be a priority, so knocking a few mph off the speed of bikes would be preferable to any track butchery needed to keep up with the advances in machinery.

7. Miller should be mindful of what he says

Miller took aim at Marquez after the race in comments that proved divisive

Miller took aim at Marquez after the race in comments that proved divisive

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

If there is one thing you can say about Jack Miller, it’s that he’s a headline generator. The Australian’s German GP was a mixed bag. Third on the grid and a podium in the sprint made for a good Saturday.

But the KTM’s lack of early-race pace in the grand prix relative to the Ducatis meant he served just 11 corners in the lead before being swallowed into the pack (a moment exiting Turn 11 not helping his cause). He ended up sixth, 11.9s off the win.

After the race, Miller took aim at his rivals – specifically, though without naming, Marc Marquez.

“We’re [KTM] the only ones not complaining about our motorcycles and we’re actually trying to do something about it to fix it,” he began. “All they do is throw their toys out of their cot and say ‘my bike is shit’. It’s simple as that. Why are they shit? Because they kicked 99% of their engineers to get his engineers, his guys in there, and now they’re fucked and he can’t even make it past a lap.

“So, it’s their own doing. Everyone wants to complain about their own bikes, nobody wants to do anything about it. Shut the f**k up and get on with the job. You’re paid to ride a motorcycle, not to be a fucking princess and complain about your bike.”

It was a disrespectful comment towards an eight-time world champion that won him some support on the shark tank of social media. And in a paddock full of people trying to change things for the better and open motorcycle racing up to being inclusive for all, his lazily sexist “princess” comment shows how far things have got to go in this regard.

Miller definitely wanted to get something off his chest about his rivals, and he likely meant no harm. But it doesn’t take much for top-level athletes with a big following to take a moment to think about how others may take their comments – especially just months after MotoGP’s global fan survey run in conjunction with the Motorsport Network had a female response rate of 13% of the total sample size.

8. Di Giannantonio may have MotoGP as “Plan A”, but his fate seems sealed

It's not been a spectacular season to date for Di Giannantonio, who needs to step up to safeguard his place on the grid beyond 2024

It's not been a spectacular season to date for Di Giannantonio, who needs to step up to safeguard his place on the grid beyond 2024

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

Fabio Di Giannantonio is one of a few riders whose future beyond the 2023 season is uncertain. The Gresini sophomore is having a solid campaign, having scored 34 points in seven rounds with a best grand prix result of eighth in France. But it hasn’t been spectacular, the Italian seventh of the eight full-time Ducati riders in the standings and largely by virtue of Enea Bastianini missing the opening five rounds with injury.

Di Giannantonio believes he is showing improvement, and indeed he has already equalled his best result of his rookie year in 2022 (a season in which he didn’t score for the first six rounds). But the rumours linking Moto2 ace Tony Arbolino to his ride refuse to die, and for good reason. Arbolino leads the Moto2 standings by 15 points having won twice, finished second three times and stood on the podium in all but one round.

“I’m not so worried about my future,” he said prior to the German GP. “The Plan A is to stay in MotoGP, obviously. At the moment I don’t have a Plan B. I’m not considering a Plan B. The plan is to be in MotoGP, improve race by race and then try to reach the maximum level, that I think can be the one of the other Ducati guys.”

With podiums the minimum target for all Ducati teams now, given the form of both the 2023 bike and the 2022 version, Di Giannantonio – who is the only Ducati runner other than Bastianini yet to get a rostrum in 2023 - isn’t delivering what he needs.

9. Riders calling MotoGP “boring” is a bit strong

Aleix Espargaro has taken aim at

Aleix Espargaro has taken aim at "boring" MotoGP races due to the proliferation of downforce

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

There are a lot of things wrong with MotoGP at the moment that the series is trying to fix. Chief among them is the fact that the on-track spectacle isn’t as nail-biting as it was just a few years ago.

A primary reason for that is the massive amount of aerodynamics on bikes now, as well as the ride height devices. Marc Marquez told Motorsport.com in November that this has made bikes “less manual”, meaning the rider can’t make as much difference. On top of this, the problems of front tyre pressure when riders are in packs impact overtaking.

“We have a lot of downforce, that’s for sure,” Aleix Espargaro said. “Everybody has a lot of downforce, but everybody has the same. MotoGP now, and I don’t want to blame MotoGP, but it’s boring.

“Everything is about the qualifying, then you can do a good race, because all the fresh air that you get [when in front], the bike can be a lot faster, is a lot easier. If you are far back in the grid, even if you have strong pace, it’s very difficult. It’s frustrating. It’s all about the qualifying and the start.”

Arguably, there have been no ‘classic’ races in 2023 so far. But there have been moments, and the German GP is proof that we can still have some proper scraps.

Bagnaia noted he felt less turbulence following Martin during their battle at the Sachsenring. Whether that’s down to being on identical bikes, or just him simply getting used to how the bike feels, is up for debate. Then again, always running at the front is going to mask the problems others have complained about frequently when further back in the pack.

Regardless, “boring” is a bit strong but the racing definitely could be better.

10. MotoGP’s calendar continues to prove a problem

Packed crowds descended on the Sachsenring, but didn't get to see all of the riders in action

Packed crowds descended on the Sachsenring, but didn't get to see all of the riders in action

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

MotoGP welcomed another massive crowd in Germany, which is not surprising as it has always been one of the series’ best-attended events. A weekend total of 233,196 – 96,151 for Sunday – is a substantial boost on Mugello’s 135,670.

As Le Mans also proved with its record attendance, there is an appetite for MotoGP in specific regions. In terms of captivating new audiences, though, the fact none of the races this year have been started by all of the full-time riders is a problem.

While injuries can’t be anticipated, the condensed schedule means more races are being missed by riders as they recover. It’s also stopping teams from being able to find replacements to bolster grid numbers.

There were 20 riders entered for the German GP, but come Sunday that had dropped to 19. The injury issue isn’t of MotoGP’s making, though the condensed calendar and the high pressure of race weekends now with Friday vital to qualifying, and the sprint generally leading to chaos, is taking its toll.

The tightly-condensed calendars mean teams have fewer opportunities to find replacements for injured riders

The tightly-condensed calendars mean teams have fewer opportunities to find replacements for injured riders

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz

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