Honda diffuses Mir rumours but pressure mounts on Espargaro for 2022 MotoGP

HRC boss Alberto Puig attempts to play down rumours linking Joan Mir with the 2023 Repsol Honda seat as pressure mounts on Pol Espargaro to impress in 2022.

Pol Espargaro - Repsol Honda

Honda MotoGP team manager Alberto Puig has moved to play down rumours surrounding an approach towards Joan Mir for the 2022 MotoGP World Championship season, insisting Pol Espargaro has every chance of retaining his ride.

Espargaro is heading into his second season with the Repsol Honda squad with his seat seemingly under threat following paddock rumours the manufacturer has been actively courting both Fabio Quartararo and Joan Mir, respective champions in 2021 and 2020.

Though talk concerning Quartararo has reduced since the end of the 2021 season, it is believed Mir is Honda’s preferred choice to partner Marc Marquez - who is locked in a long-term contract - for 2023.

It means Espargaro is the rider under pressure to prove he should hold onto his seat during the opening rounds of the season, a chance Puig says it will afford to the Spaniard while insisting speculation around Mir is just that for now.

"We never listen to these comments. We are super focused with Pol and he is our rider for this year and we are going to support him 100% to help him achieve the best results possible. All these rumours, it has zero importance.”

"We expect that he races to win, for the top positions. This is why we contracted him. He’s fast, he has experience, he’s not a small kid. 

So his job is to race to be in the top positions. Last year it’s true that he was expecting one type of situation and he found another one and it took him quite a long time to understand this bike. 

"During the year we have been changing, he made a big step in Misano for understanding the bike. We also realised many things in that test, so from then on, he improved. 

"He had a good winter even though he had a big crash in Valencia, he’s motivated, and we expect that he is going to be fighting for good positions. Normally, Honda always try to find riders that can be fighting for top positions and that’s why we contracted him and what we expect.”

MotoGP wins or bust for Pol Espargaro?

One could argue Espargaro is getting something of a rough deal with his Repsol Honda move.

Already coming into a team built around his team-mate, Espargaro enjoyed a solid first season with the Repsol Honda when compared with his predecessors Alex Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo, but clearly suffered with an RC213V that was still finding its sweet spot having gone the wrong way in development in 2020.

Indeed, though results improved during the latter stages of the year, Espargaro struggled to match the pace of Marquez on his return to action and didn’t capitalise on his countryman’s compromised physical state to stamp his mark on the seat.

That’s not to say Espargaro can’t take things to a higher level in 2022 aboard a visibly different RC213V evolution that he will have more input in developing, but he won’t have much time to do so if Mir is available.

That said, Mir has given a big thumbs up to the 2022 specification Suzuki GSX-RR, potentially strengthening his desire to re-sign with the manufacturer beyond this year.

Then again, a rather muted response to the new Yamaha M1 might well bring Quartararo back into the fray, even if the Frenchman might baulk at the idea of partnering Marquez.

Oh, and while Puig insists Mir isn't necessarily on its radar, Honda's tendency to 'sell the dummy' when it comes to rumours concerning HRC, don't believe everything you read...

Honda NT1100 vs Yamaha Tracer 9 GT Comparison Review