Why MotoGP’s newest podium finisher is now best placed to replace Marquez at Honda

With exactly one month to go until the end of the 2023 season, the Repsol Honda team is the only one on the MotoGP grid that has not completed its line-up of riders for next year.

This is an absolutely anomalous situation, but one that the Japanese manufacturer has been forced into as a result of Marquez electing to leave a year early and join Gresini Ducati in 2024.

The eight-time world champion began to show signs that he could leave before the end of his contract some time ago and, discreetly, Honda began to look for a possible replacement, always under a non-negotiable parameter: the agreement was only going to be for one year.

The idea of HRC bosses is to have their hands free for the 2025 market, when the vast majority of the grid – all except Brad Binder – finish the contracts that bind them to their current teams.

That condition has reduced Honda’s options, as the majority of potential candidates asked to go beyond 2024 aside from the usual economic stipulations.

Honda’s first target was Miguel Oliveira. The Portuguese rider competes in the RNF team, but his agreement is with Aprilia, and expires at the end of 2024.

Oliveira would be willing to sit down with the Noale firm to try to agree on an amicable exit, as long as Honda assured him of a lasting relationship.

Miguel Oliveira, RNF MotoGP Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Miguel Oliveira, RNF MotoGP Racing

Right now, talks between the Tokyo manufacturer and Oliveira are at a stalemate, and hardly either side will budge enough to meet.

Honda’s options are now drastically reduced, especially after announcing the renewal of Iker Lecuona with its World Superbike structure.

The Valencian did a good job when he was required to make some substitutions at Jerez, Assen, Silverstone, Spielberg and Montmelo, but Honda prefers him to remain focused on the Superbike project.

At this point, Motorsport.com understands that the most viable option is the only one offered by the market at the moment.

That is to incorporate Di Giannantonio, the rider who will leave his bike in the hands of Marquez when the latter becomes part of the Gresini team in 2024.

Born in Rome, Di Giannantonio turned 25 two weeks ago and is in his second season in the premier class with the Faenza team.

Until now, his results have not been in line with what is expected. However, something changed in him in the last few days, when he found himself without a seat in view of 2024.

Since then, Di Giannantonio has scored his two best grand prix finishes. In Indonesia he finished fourth, only to go one better last weekend in Australia, where he scored his first podium in MotoGP.

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Fabio Di Giannantonio, Gresini Racing

That last result may end up giving the Italian rider access to the official Honda team.

“My representative is traveling to Thailand, and this weekend will hold some meetings to try to further advance my options for the future,” Di Giannantonio explained on Thursday at the Buriram circuit.

Specifically, Diego Tavano, his manager, is scheduled to meet Alberto Puig, HRC’s team manager, on Friday morning.

“For my part, I’m going to stay focused to maintain the current level,” Di Giannantonio added.

“I think in the next two weeks we will know some more concrete things, I don’t think anything will be closed this weekend. We are working well and in the next few weeks I think something good can come out.”

When Motorsport.comasked him what he could bring as a rider to Honda, he answered with conviction: “Work. I’m a worker, all my career I’ve proven to be one, I like to put my head down and grit my teeth, concentrate, even without thinking so much about results.

“Obviously results are very important, but this year we were coming from far away and we managed to get there. I work, that’s what I can bring to Honda.”

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