Honda finds itself in a dire situation, where the adage “when things go wrong, they can always go worse” fittingly applies. Over the past couple of weeks, the team has reached a new low. Their top riders, Marc Marquez, Alex Rins, and Joan Mir, were absent from the last two races at Sachsenring and Assen due to injuries.
Marquez’s case is particularly glaring. As the linchpin of the team, he chose not to participate in the German race after enduring five crashes in just two and a half days, resulting in multiple fractures. Although he traveled to the Dutch Grand Prix and practiced on Friday and Saturday, he ultimately sat out the main race after aggravating a cracked rib he had sustained a week earlier.
Despite being the manufacturer with the most influence in the championship, Honda currently languishes at the bottom of the constructors’ table, showing no signs of a reversal in their decline. Marquez, who aimed to make a triumphant comeback this season after enduring a grueling period due to an arm injury in July 2020, has yet to see the checkered flag in a Sunday race. Fully recovered from four operations, he made it clear to Honda’s management after his last surgery a year ago that he intended to fulfill his contract, which runs until 2024, as long as he had the necessary resources to compete for victories.
However, three months into the season, Marquez remains unable to achieve his goals. Frustration is evident in his demeanor, reinforcing the argument that his only hope of success lies in parting ways with his current team before his contract expires. The major obstacle is that while Honda seems aware of the steps required to turn the situation around, they are unwilling to implement the necessary changes for a meaningful recovery.
Marquez’s disastrous year is a far cry from his previous battles for wins, as he hasn’t even completed a full Grand Prix distance in 2023.
The COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki, with these three manufacturers being more severely affected than Ducati, KTM, and Aprilia due to the shutdown in Japan. Even in September of the previous year, when the MotoGP circus arrived at Motegi, special visas were required to enter the country.
The combination of this blockade, Marquez’s extended absence from racing, Ducati’s significant progress, and the noticeable improvements of Aprilia and KTM has left both Yamaha and Honda bewildered, particularly after Suzuki’s decision to withdraw at the end of 2022. Although individuals within both companies have identified their issues and potential solutions, the matter is considered sensitive, discouraging open discussions. The cultural factor plays a pivotal role, with Japanese engineers, especially at Honda, being notably proud and hesitant to acknowledge that their European counterparts might have gained an advantage in certain areas, such as aerodynamics.
Drawing a parallel with Formula 1, the case of Aston Martin’s transformation from seventh to third in the constructors’ standings is highlighted. They achieved this by recruiting key personnel from winning teams, namely Red Bull and Mercedes. While Honda brought in Ken Kawauchi as the technical manager for 2023 following Suzuki’s MotoGP departure, additional senior hires from within the paddock seem unlikely.
Operational decisions for Honda are made by HRC’s top management, led by President Koji Watanabe and further coordinated by Chief Technical Officer Shinichi Kokubu and HRC Director Tetsuhiro Kuwata. For any changes, particularly in areas where the RC213V is potentially lagging behind other prototypes, approval from this trio would be necessary.
Regrettably, the foundation for a recovery has not yet been established, which is cause for concern. When asked directly whether he had attempted to convince his Japanese superiors to seek talent from Ducati, KTM, or Aprilia, Marquez avoided giving a clear answer. He emphasized that, as a rider, his primary focus is extracting the maximum performance from the bike on the track, while the responsibility for decision-making lies with those in charge.
As Marquez’s tone increasingly reveals his frustration with the situation, rumors of an impending departure from Honda intensify.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about MotoGP struggles
Q: What is the current position of Honda in the MotoGP championship?
A: Honda currently occupies the bottom position in the constructors’ table of the MotoGP championship.
Q: Why were Honda’s top riders absent from the last two races?
A: Honda’s top riders, including Marc Marquez, Alex Rins, and Joan Mir, were unable to participate in the recent races due to injuries they sustained.
Q: Has Marc Marquez been able to achieve any success this season?
A: No, Marc Marquez has faced a challenging season and has not yet seen the checkered flag in a Sunday race.
Q: What factors have contributed to Honda’s struggles in MotoGP?
A: Honda has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, prolonged absence of Marc Marquez, advancements made by Ducati, and improvements in performance by Aprilia and KTM.
Q: Why is Honda hesitant to make necessary changes for recovery?
A: Honda’s reluctance to implement changes may stem from cultural factors and pride among Japanese engineers, preventing them from considering alternative approaches or acknowledging the potential superiority of European counterparts in certain areas.
Q: Are there any indications of a potential departure for Marc Marquez from Honda?
A: There are growing rumors of an impending departure for Marc Marquez from Honda due to his frustrations with the current situation. However, no official announcements have been made at this time.