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MotoGP Misano September Testing

The grim future facing Marquez and Quartararo after vital MotoGP test

OPINION: Not for a long time has a MotoGP test day been highly anticipated, as the futures of both Fabio Quartararo and Marc Marquez were long thought to have hinged on what their respective manufacturer brought to Misano. The outlook wasn’t positive for either. What happens now?

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

It wouldn't be unfair to say that the majority of the press corps who attended the San Marino Grand Prix at Misano felt the actual racing was something of an inconvenience. The traditional post-race test on the Monday was the far more important part of the weekend.

For the last few months, as Yamaha and Honda have languished at the bottom of the manufacturers' standings and struggled for any kind of form resembling the results either used to enjoy, their respective superstars have become increasingly disillusioned.

Yamaha's 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo has just two podiums to his credit in 2023, while Honda's eight-time title winner Marc Marquez has scored fewer points than KTM wildcard Dani Pedrosa – who has contested just two rounds this season.

Over the course of the San Marino weekend, Marquez's future dominated headlines. As the Misano test signalled a pivotal point in what he does for 2024, he was heavily and continually linked to a shock Gresini Ducati switch. Some confidently wrote the deal was done, others think it's ever more likely after Monday's test.

Marquez moved to play down the importance of the Misano test. Indeed, some believe he has already made his decision. He told the media on Monday midway through the test that, first, he had two options to decide on, before telling the Spanish media that he has three.

"Yeah, of course there is a deadline. Around India, Japan, I will decide," he said. Marquez remarked over the race weekend that he was "enjoying" the speculation, a cryptic 'something is coming' post on the site formerly known as Twitter during the round confirming this contentment to stir the pot.

This all fed into his fairly generic answers about what he wanted from the test when asked about it by Motorsport.com after finishing sixth in Sunday's race, stating that he was looking purely for performance.

Marquez was a man in demand in his briefing with the media on Monday

Marquez was a man in demand in his briefing with the media on Monday

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

On that, he was left disappointed. Honda brought its first 2024 prototype to the Misano test, but it was mainly just a new chassis. The engine was much the same as the one he has been racing this season. While 14th on the timesheets means absolutely nothing at the Misano test, as Quartararo will later explain, Marquez's comments did nothing to suggest that the outlook for his future with Honda was any better.

"Yeah, of course, it's quite a different riding style. But in the end, the problems are more or less the same. So, we need to work more," he said when Motorsport.com asked him what he thought of the 2024 prototype, alluding to his ongoing rear grip issues.

He then noted: "It's different on the riding position. It's a bit different. The way to feel the bike, it's true that in the beginning, it's a bit strange. But then lap by lap, as with a new bike, becomes more natural. But in the end, the way to ride, the way to look for the lap time is the same as the current one."

What Marquez wants from Honda to keep him around in 2024 was never going to come on the track in the Misano test. He has tasked team boss Alberto Puig to go on a recruitment drive for engineers, ideally those with a more open European mentality

No other Honda rider was particularly positive. LCR's Takaaki Nakagami said HRC's engineers didn't seem that surprised by the disappointing feedback from the chassis. Honda didn't bring a new engine to the test, and there's no guarantee one will be ready by the Valencia test at the end of November.

In reality, the feedback from the Honda stable about the new bike wasn't unexpected as Stefan Bradl's wildcard outing for the HRC test team during the grand prix weekend failed to offer any sign of big steps forward.

However, as Motorsport.com's Spanish colleague Oriol Puigdemont wrote last week, what Marquez wants from Honda to keep him around in 2024 was never going to come on the track in the Misano test. He has tasked team boss Alberto Puig to go on a recruitment drive for engineers, ideally those with a more open European mentality that has served Ducati, Aprilia and KTM so well of late.

Fresh impetus was evident at Misano. There were a host of new engineers within the Honda garages, Marquez noting last Saturday that "Japan is reacting" to his demands in this regard. Marquez also revealed that Honda has brought in an aerodynamics engineer from Honda's Formula 1 team, which follows HRC president Koji Watanabe's declarations that the four-wheel side of the company will help the ailing MotoGP project.

Honda has been tasked with bolstering its engineering staff to convince Marquez to stay, but improvement will take time

Honda has been tasked with bolstering its engineering staff to convince Marquez to stay, but improvement will take time

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"It's true that there are new engineers," he said. "Looks like they start with that new bike, then of course they will start working because what from what I understand it's not a long time these new engineers have been working on this new bike, new project. So, let's see. They don't have much time for Valencia because it's in two months, but let's see if they can do a step."

He continues to put pressure on Honda, demanding action and not words. But even if he decides to honour his contract, HRC hasn't gotten off on the right foot and there isn't much time to get the 2024 bike improved for next season.

Quartararo is in a similar situation to Marquez, though there is no doubting that the Frenchman will be on the Yamaha in 2024. With that, at least, it has kept some focus on the task at hand – even if he has repeatedly echoed Marquez's push for his factory to stop talking and deliver what it has long promised.

Yamaha has at least been a bit busier than Honda, with a new chassis, new aero and engine brought to the test. Quartararo focused on the aero and the engine, while team-mate Franco Morbidelli put the new frame through its paces – though he didn't like it very much.

The engine was the key thing Quartararo has been asking for from Yamaha, who has been working with ex-Ferrari F1 man Luca Marmorini over the past year to try and get some more power. Marmorini was present at Misano, listening intently to Quartararo's feedback during the test.

When Quartararo came to speak to the media, he had yet to have a proper debrief with Marmorini. And that was probably a good thing.

"I tested it and the feeling was… I expected much better from this test, but we have to stay positive and try to analyse what happened to improve for the Valencia test," he said when Motorsport.com asked about the engine.

Speed trap figures were fairly kind on Quartararo at the test, in which he was sixth overall. But he was still some 5km/h down on the fastest Ducati and genuinely struggled to find any positives from the various new parts he tried: "When I tried the 2023 bike, I think it was the first time where I felt the engine was a little bit better. But today I didn't feel it".

Quartararo knows he'll be riding a Yamaha next year, but was disappointed with the progress of its new engine

Quartararo knows he'll be riding a Yamaha next year, but was disappointed with the progress of its new engine

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

The biggest issue Quartararo had at the test was the fact the Misano surface was so grippy from days of running prior. Thus, he claimed, the times he did were "fake".

"I think everywhere we need [power] to be honest," he said. "But the biggest thing for us, when the track is high in grip it changes our bike totally. I did 1m31.4s with almost 20 laps on the tyre and this is my qualifying lap from the weekend.

"Of course, the others are much faster than us. But the gap to them when there is low grip and high grip is much smaller for them. Us, our pace improves almost one second [when there is grip] – seven-tenths, eight-tenths. With them, it's not as much.

"Of course we are in a tough moment but I have to stay polite. We both want the same thing. Of course, it's difficult, but I prefer to stay calmer" Fabio Quartararo

"I think last year we went wrong also in this area, that every time you go out, every bike is turning [laps], [there is lots of] Michelin rubber. And it's a track where you spin a lot. So, you leave a lot of the tyre [on track]. If you go to Turn 3 now, it's black. So, then you open the throttle and in the race weekend, you have to control because it's sliding. [In the test] you can stay wide open and it's [the performance] fake."

Not that it made much of a difference, as Quartararo noted Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow offered largely similar feedback about the bike when he privately ran it at Aragon last week, where grip levels are much lower.

Confusingly, Yamaha chief Massimo Meregalli told motogp.com after the test that it was pleased with what it saw. This seems more like an attempt to save face than anything, but it doesn't speak much of the coalescence within Yamaha right now.

Quartararo remained diplomatic in spite of his evident disappointment, ploughing a completely different narrative to that which currently envelopes Marquez and Honda. Quartararo is resigned to the fact that, whatever happens, he will have to race with an M1 in 2024, and admits to being too "arrogant" in his early season criticisms.

Quartararo accepts he was arrogant in his early season criticisms, but has a decision to make about his post-2024 future

Quartararo accepts he was arrogant in his early season criticisms, but has a decision to make about his post-2024 future

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"I mean, Yamaha believed in me when I arrived from Moto2," he said. "My attitude at the beginning of the year was a little bit more arrogant than what I had to do. So, of course, we are in a tough moment but I have to stay polite. We both want the same thing. Of course, it's difficult, but I prefer to stay calmer and try to build a better combination with everybody."

Yamaha and Quartararo may "want the same thing" in terms of results, but where they may differ now after the test is on 2025. Quartararo will have to start thinking about his post-2024 plans in the coming months as all factory seats come onto the market for the following year.

Given what he was able to do on the Yamaha in 2021 and 2022 despite its problems, Quartararo will be a wanted man. This test was important for Yamaha to prove it can deliver what he needs. And while it brought a lot, the Frenchman conceded "I think we will take out a lot of things and try to build some new things for the Valencia test".

And while it's not a given that Quartararo will go away from Misano with his mind made up, Yamaha now faces a tougher task in convincing him to commit his future to it.

For Quartararo or Marquez, there was no big revelation at the Misano test – no magic bullet solution heralding the end of their misery and woe. That was always unlikely, though.

And, for now, there is no end in sight for their struggles.

Neither Quartararo nor Marquez came away from the crunch test with the answers they were seeking

Neither Quartararo nor Marquez came away from the crunch test with the answers they were seeking

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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