Pol Espargaro out of Assen, Alex Marquez nearing 2023 MotoGP deal?

Honda's woes continue as Pol Espargaro is forced out of the Dutch MotoGP through injury as Alex Marquez is linked with a move to Gresini Ducati

Pol Espargaro, Alex Marquez

Pol Espargaro has been forced to pull out of the Dutch MotoGP at Assen as a legacy of injuries sustained during last weekend’s German MotoGP.

The Spaniard suffered a rib injury in a heavy fall during FP3 at the Sachsenring but while he went on to start that race - eventually retiring due to the pain - he opted out of contesting the remainder of the Assen weekend.

His issues compound a sobering period for the Honda team, which suffered its first ever non-score in GP competition for 40 years in Germany when Espargaro, Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez crashed out of contention, while Stefan Bradl finished last and more than 20secs shy of his nearest rival after suffering burns on his foot due to his fairing overheating.

"I did not expect the situation I have now. If I'm not able to ride fast and perform well, there is no sense to ride',” he told reporters after FP2 in quotes attributed to our sister publication Crash.net.

“[It’s] Worse than I expected [rib injury], I expected to be much better here. In the afternoon when I pushed, I felt straight away my ribs started to hurt quite a lot and then also my back. So the situation is difficult.

"I did not expect the situation I have now. I did not expect to feel so bad as I feel now. 

It means the factory Repsol Honda team is without its two primary entries with Bradl - who will now go it alone for the works effort - currently deputising for Marc Marquez while he recovers from injury.

Alex Marquez set for Gresini Ducati MotoGP deal?

While Honda’s present fortunes are tumultuous, things are looking brighter for the future with the team believed to have all-but-filled its four seats across the Repsol and LCR teams.

While Marquez’s future remains uncertain as he recovers from another major surgery that could keep him out of action until the latter stages of the season, he is expected to be joined by 2020 MotoGP World Champion Joan Mir.

While Repsol Honda boss Alberto Puig was giving nothing away when quizzed by reporters in Assen, Mir recently dropped a sizeable hint on ITV’s MotoGP coverage by acknowledging it would be ‘a big challenge’ to partner Marquez before adding ‘it’s not a bad option’ all the same.

Indeed, Honda looks set to secure the services of Mir and Alex Rins from Suzuki, which threw the rider market into disarray with the news that it is leaving MotoGP at the end of the year.

Rins is expected to replace Alex Marquez on a factory-spec RC213V, while few doubt the out-of-favour Takaaki Nakagami will exit to make way for fellow Japanese rider and Moto2 title contender Ai Ogura.

As for where this leaves the current riders had been unclear, with Espargaro linked with a return to KTM, albeit at Tech 3, while Nakagami’s recent use of development parts suggests he could revert to a testing role with Honda.

Alex Marquez, meanwhile, had been largely left out of the ‘silly season’ rumours until this weekend when it emerged he was in talks to join Gresini Ducati next year.

While it would be a step back in the sense he’d be riding a year-old Ducati, his potential predecessor Enea Bastianini has shown how competitive the team can be with his three wins this year. Either way, Ducati’s Paolo Ciabatti is reported by Crash.net as saying talks are ongoing.

"We are discussing the final details of his renewal and they will have 2023 bikes, so, equal treatment in terms of technical package. 

“Concerning the discussions between Alex Marquez and Gresini, we know that it’s an ongoing discussion but it’s something more managed by the team than by Ducati."

Should Marquez land the Gresini Ducati deal, he would almost certainly be partnering Fabio di Giannantonio, who has intimated he is very close to an extension following a strong run of form that has included a shock maiden pole position in Mugello, three top five qualifying results and a first top ten finish in Germany.