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Opinion

Why Marc Marquez will shake the foundations at Ducati in MotoGP

OPINION: Although Marc Marquez's move to Gresini Ducati for 2024 is yet to be made official, all roads lead to the eight-time world champion riding a year-old Desmosedici in MotoGP next season. But even being under contract at Gresini and on an old bike won't stop Marquez from upsetting the status quo that has been carefully maintained by Ducati until now.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Let no one be fooled: as much as the Italian brand wants to publicly disassociate itself from the agreement that will link Marc Marquez to Gresini, it would be naive to think that the Spaniard will be riding a Desmosedici next season without approval from Ducati or, at least, of its most influential faction.

For some years now, most of the paddock has known that alongside Claudio Domenicali - the Bolognese company's CEO - there is no one with more decision-making power than Gigi Dall'Igna. It was he who, on the Sunday after the Japanese Grand Prix, made it clear that Marquez had decided to leave Honda to ride a satellite Ducati.

Three days later, Marquez announced that he had parted company with HRC "by mutual agreement", the contract that on paper linked them until the end of 2024. In the next few days, his signature with Gresini should be made official. There, he will once again share a garage with his brother Alex, a key player in Marc's decision to leave Honda.

The six-time champion will land there alone, without the human group that had surrounded him since his time in Moto2. This is basically due to the fact that the Catalan rider rejected the offer to accept the two-year contract he had on the table. Ducati's fear, understandably, is that the engineers and technicians led by Santi Hernandez could leave with Marquez to go somewhere else after just one year having been able to study all the 'secrets' of the best weapon on the grid.

However, that may end up being the least of the problems for the manufacturer that currently dominates the world championship, with three of its bikes in the top three positions in the overall points table. Not least because Dall'Igna's desire to discover what Marc Marquez is capable of doing with one of his Desmosedici will likely make it difficult to continue managing the riders in such a controlled manner.

It's understandable that many people find it strange that a star of Marquez's pedigree and stature will be competing in 2024 on an 'old' bike, while fellow Ducati newcomer Franco Morbidelli, for example, will be racing on the latest version. Contrary to what logic might dictate, this distribution of equipment plays in favour of the moment that Marquez is going through.

The Spaniard is tired of being a test and development rider, and only wants to worry about going fast on a bike that works. And that is, most probably, what Alex has transmitted to him.

At Gresini Marc Marquez will partner brother Alex, who played a key role in convincing his next career move

At Gresini Marc Marquez will partner brother Alex, who played a key role in convincing his next career move

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

This year, the younger Marquez came to the Ducati with the fresh memory of having spent the previous three years battling with a Honda, so has a very clear reference point. Using that logic, which he extracts every day when training with him, the younger of the brothers knows perfectly well what the older one will be capable of, regardless of whether he rides a GP23 or a GP24.

Even more so if we take into account what happened two years ago, when Ducati made a mistake with its engine choice for 2022, and had to go back on the 2021 engine to equip Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller. The worst affected by this were Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco, who had to use the engine specification that Bagnaia and Miller discarded.

Everyone remembers how hard Enea Bastianini made life in the title race for Ducati's theoretical leader Bagnaia while riding a year-old Gresini Ducati in 2022. The fact is that both the 'Beast' and Bagnaia rode two very similar Desmosedici with the same engine, while Martin and Zarco were left with the newer, but less competitive version.

That is the scenario in which Marquez wants to see himself in 2024 and, like Bastianini, also wearing the Gresini suit. "With one difference: Marc is not Enea, nor can he pretend to be," a source at Ducati explains.

It is normal that many people find it strange that a star of Marquez's pedigree and stature will be competing in 2024 on an 'old' bike, while Franco Morbidelli, for example, will be racing on the latest version

At this point, it remains to be seen how Ducati's management will handle the staff it will have, and this is where the distribution of power at Borgo Panigale comes into focus. Dall'Igna is on his own and, like all engineers who are considered geniuses, his ego is not small.

That was evident from his words at Motegi, where he stressed that, for him, "the fact that Marc wants to leave Honda to get on a satellite Ducati can only give me satisfaction". He even revealed confidential conversations with the Tokyo-based company, which was interested in the engineer's contractual situation. His self-esteem now satisfied, the task of controlling the riders will be left to others.

"If it were up to Gigi, in addition to Marquez, Pecco [Bagnaia], Martin and the others, he would also put Fabio [Quartararo] on one of his bikes. He just wants to win, win and win," they say at Ducati which, in turn, understands that the possibility of having the most universal face of motorcycling could not be underestimated.

The danger is that the ambition personified by Dall'Igna might turn against him. Especially if we consider that, in six years, the Italian brand can go from fighting with the best version of Marquez with Andrea Dovizioso as the spearhead of the project, to the Spaniard putting the influence of Ducati into question in the event of him celebrating his seventh MotoGP title with a Desmosedici from the previous season.

It remains to be seen how Ducati would handle such a situation, especially with its sponsors, who, in theory, invest large amounts of money in order to have the best possible combination. All of this, however, will be of little concern to a rider whose sole aim is to just win again and prove he is still the best rider in the world.

Marquez could upset the balance at Ducati by winning on a year-old bike

Marquez could upset the balance at Ducati by winning on a year-old bike

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

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