Is Pol Espargaro set to make a shock switch to Honda for MotoGP 2021?

Reports in the Spanish media are speculating Pol Espargaro is set for a shock move to Repsol Honda for the 2021 MotoGP season

Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro

There may only be a few more pieces of the 2021 MotoGP rider jigsaw puzzle to slot together but speculation out of Spain suggests the most significant change could still be on the way with a shock move by Pol Espargaro from KTM to Honda.

The Spaniard has been casually linked to the title-winning team for some weeks, with the man himself dropping some hints that he would be interested in such a deal if it was offered even if he otherwise remains committed to the burgeoning KTM project.

A report on suggest an announcement is imminent, though it has been refuted by his manager Homer Bosch, who told Spanish publication AS ‘it is not true that Pol has a verbal agreement to go running next year with the Repsol Honda team’.

Earlier this week, Espargaro was quoted by Corse di Moto as saying he’d only leave KTM if it was to move to a team capable of winning a world championship.

It’s a wish he may well get with Honda seemingly keen to get two established riders representing its factory Repsol team, not least because many believe Espargaro’s aggressive style – which has served him well on the KTM – would suit the famously tricky RC213V package.

In an interview with El Periodico, Repsol Honda boss Alberto Puig is somewhat evasive when discussing what the future holds for the three riders – Alex Marquez, Cal Crutchlow and Takaaki Nakagami – out of contract at the end of the year.

"HRC is always thinking about the present and the future of its structure, from the lower categories to MotoGP. 

“Due to the circumstances that everyone knows, this season is being very, very, special and is not developing through the usual channels, which makes it difficult for all of us to reflect, not only on what will happen this year, which hopefully we can have, in the end, a World Cup, even if it is small, because it will be very interesting, if not for the immediate future. 

“That does not mean, I insist, that Honda, which has managed to extend its relationship with the best rider in the world, continues to plan the best possible future for all its riders and, of course, for the brand ”

Cal Crutchlow to lose out to Alex Marquez?

If Espargaro does make the move to Repsol Honda it could spell bad news for Crutchlow, who could be levered out of the LCR Honda team to make way for Alex Marquez.

The younger Marquez brother makes his MotoGP debut with Repsol Honda this year but the 2019 Moto2 world champion’s abilities remain something of an unknown following a delayed start to the season.

With Honda not wanting to rely on Marc Marquez to ensure it comes away with the constructors’ and teams’ titles as it did in 2019, the highly-rated Espargaro’s potential availability would be seen as a tempting alternative.

However, it would seemingly be keen to hold onto Alex, who could swap to a full factory bike in the satellite LCR team, potentially in place of Crutchlow. 

The Briton has signalled a desire to continue racing beyond 2020 – having originally hinted at retirement – but on the assumption Honda will keep the Japanese-backed Nakagami in the team, could find himself frozen out.

Where would this leave KTM?

If Espargaro does leave for Honda, it would spell a huge blow to KTM having developed its package around the Spaniard since coming into the sport in 2017. 

Having already lost out on Johann Zarco last year, KTM risks heading into 2021 with a largely young and inexperienced rider line-up of Brad Binder, Miguel Oliveira and Iker Lecuona, which may explain why it has reportedly been pushing hard to get Andrea Dovizioso on board.

One option could then be Crutchlow, who’d bring invaluable experience to the KTM team, or the soon-to-be-available Danilo Petrucci.