until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Ducati has to resist the allure of an iconic Marquez move

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

After another weekend of MotoGP action, this time at Barcelona’s Montmelo circuit for the Catalan Grand Prix, it looks like the competition to become a factory Ducati racer in 2025 has narrowed again - with incumbent Enea Bastianini’s lacklustre weekend compared to championship leader Jorge Martin and double podium finisher Marc Marquez leaving just the two of them as frontrunners.

But while the Italian marque might not yet be ready to make a decision on who goes where for next season, it’s becoming increasingly more obvious that the only smart play remaining for Ducati is to promote Martin to be Pecco Bagnaia’s team-mate next year - simply because it’s the only option that would allow it to ensure it loses neither Martin, nor Marquez.

Both have made it abundantly clear what they need to have offered to them in order to stay - even if it’s also quite obvious that neither of them particularly want to leave the Ducati fold.

Martin is well-aware that he’s currently onboard the best bike on the grid in the shape of his 2024-spec Ducati, even if it’s in the satellite colours of Pramac Racing - and for someone who wants to win titles, he’ll want to keep that machine.

Meanwhile, Marquez - a rider who has changed teams and machinery just once in his entire 12-year MotoGP career - doesn’t want to start that whole process again, especially after seeing how much of early 2024 has been about adaptation and simply returning to winning ways (a process that still isn’t completed for him).

Marc Marquez, Gresini Ducati, MotoGP

However, while both of them might want to stay with the Bologna factory, it doesn’t mean their public demands are quite the same.

For Martin, it’s factory status in name as well as situation. A rider who’s motivated at least in part by ego and confidence, he wants the nod of approval (as well as the extra resources) that comes from being full factory. He wants the whole world to know that he’s the top dog - and that doesn’t happen when you’re ‘only’ a satellite racer.

Marquez’s demand, on the other hand, is more straightforward. Currently riding year-old machinery in the Gresini Racing squad, it’s obvious that Ducati’s elder machine is at a weakness to the GP24. Marquez wants to close that gap and get back to doing what he loves doing - winning titles.

He doesn’t seem too fussed about whether that happens in a factory team or a satellite squad, either. Seemingly not that keen on making a move to replace Martin at Pramac - why move from one satellite squad to another and have to relearn a whole new team? - he knows he doesn’t necessarily need to be Bagnaia’s team-mate.

And in those two demands lies a clear truth for Ducati - the only solution that’s open right now is to make sure that Martin becomes a factory rider for the next two seasons. He has more than earned it by fighting for a title until the last round of 2023 - and, with the Spaniard currently leading the championship, Ducati risks a very possible PR disaster if it decides Martin is somehow expendable.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Ducati, MotoGP

Should Martin not get offered a factory seat - dissed for the third season in a row by Bologna - it’s not entirely sure what would happen, but it’s likely that a slighted Martin would simply choose to walk away altogether, taking over the factory Aprilia that’s going to be vacated by his ‘brother’ Aleix Espargaro.

Imagine the PR disaster that would befall Ducati, in that case, should Martin’s run of form continue in 2024. He already leads the title race - and there can surely be no bigger own goal for Ducati’s marketing than to see a number one plate earned on a Desmosedici on the front of their Italian rivals’ RS-GP machine.

MotoGP standings

Sure, there would also be an advantage of sorts to seeing eight-time world champion Marquez onboard the factory bike, in the form of a big PR win and huge merchandising and promotional opportunities.

But Ducati has never been shy about using its satellite colours to sell road bikes, and it'll happily find a way to make the Marquez situation work, especially now that the Gresini bike has more prominent Ducati branding than ever before (probably not by accident).

There’d be negatives to picking Marquez, too. It very much looks like Bagnaia - who has admitted he'd favour keeping Bastianini - has something of a target fixation on Marquez, willing to fight harder against the six-time MotoGP champion than anyone else on track, like they both demonstrated at Portimao a few rounds ago.

Should the two of them end up together in factory colours, it’s likely to be a fractious environment, especially given Bagnaia’s links to the Valentino Rossi camp. It’s something that sources have hinted that the Italian would like to avoid if at all possible, preferring instead to reunite with his former Aspar Moto3 team-mate Martin if continuing with Bastianini is off the table.

Jorge Martin and Pecco Bagnaia, MotoGP

And with Marquez content to remain a satellite racer if he gets the latest machine, it seems like something of a no-brainer for Ducati to try and make that happen, as long as it can solve the Pramac-to-Yamaha issue that might in fact be causing more sleepless nights in Bologna than working out who will be Bagnaia’s team-mate.

There’s also the added bonus of potentially even being able to retain the services of all three of the current candidates for the job. Bastianini has struggled in factory colours and might actually relish a return to a satellite Ducati at, for example, Pramac - a move that would serve the double duty of denying him to Aprilia as well.

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