Surprise second Ducati MotoGP rider enters frame to replace Marc Marquez

With eight-time world champion Marquez joining Gresini Ducati next season, Honda has been desperately searching for a replacement.

Miguel Oliveira was the favoured option, but Honda’s insistence on offering a one-year deal took the five-time grand prix winner off the table.

Gresini’s Fabio Di Giannantonio – whom Marquez will replace – then emerged as favourite, though rumours emerged on the run up to the Malaysian Grand Prix that Moto2 race winner Fermin Aldeguer had an offer.

However, on Friday in Malaysia Honda team boss Alberto Puig told DAZN that neither he, nor Aldeguer’s manager, knew where this rumour came from – casting doubt on the rider’s own comments this week that he had been in talks.

In the same DAZN interview, Puig revealed that Pol Espargaro, Di Giannantonio and Marini are now the contenders for Marquez’s ride at Honda. Espargaro has already confirmed he will remain with KTM as a test rider.

Asked by if he’s held talks with Honda, Marini remained cagey, noting: “Well, now, no, in this moment. Today, Friday.”

When pressed if these had happened at some point, he added: “Ah, this is… you need to talk with my manager.”

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team

Marini is contracted to VR46 for the 2024 season, but is not ruling out switching to Honda.

“It depends on the situation,” he said. Depends. There are many things that need to be in the same direction, in my opinion.

“Now I am feeling really strong, I’m improving a lot during this season and next year I want to be competitive and fight for the podium in every race and achieve better results, so this is my main target and I want to do everything to achieve it.”

A switch to Honda would mean Marini swapping the best bike for the worst, but admits the allure of leading development at a factory team is strong.

“Yeah, you have the best bike, but going in a factory team and develop your own bike and talk with the engineers and follow a direction – your direction – everybody together, is a completely different thing,” he said when asked by if it made sense moving to Honda, from a competitive standpoint.

“I know that my package now is fantastic, the team is working very well, and Ducati is a fantastic bike performing well every time in every situation, every condition.

“But also, as a rider, I have dreams to achieve and to ride and work for a factory team is something really incredible, in my opinion.

“But it needs to be the correct project, the correct situation.”

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Di Giannantonio refused to be drawn into any conversations about the competition he faces to get the factory Honda seat and says it’s “not my biggest issue” right now.

“Which competition?,” he replied when asked by if he was worried about Marini taking the Honda seat.

“It’s like everybody [is] on that seat, but you guys [the media] also put every name on my seat every time – on the Gresini seat, on the Honda seat.

“So, the competition is from you. For my side, I don’t know. I just go on the bike and whatever it is it will be good.

“At the moment, it’s not my biggest issue in my mind. I just want to go faster tomorrow and in the race on Sunday.”

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