Who will replace Jorge Lorenzo at Repsol Honda for 2020 MotoGP?

Jorge Lorenzo 's decision to retire leaves HRC Honda facing a headache over who to replace him for 2020 MotoGP at this late stage

Alex Marquez, Marc Marquez

Honda is remaining tight-lipped on deciding who will join Marc Marquez in the MotoGP World Championshiop winning team next season following Jorge Lorenzo ’s shock retirement call.

The three-time MotoGP World Champion made the unexpected announcement he’ll be hanging up his leathers after this weekend’s Valencia MotoGP in part because of ongoing injury issues and because he hasn’t gelled with the Repsol Honda package that is otherwise so dominant in Marquez’s hands.

With the decision seemingly catching most at even Honda by surprise – with Marquez saying he wasn’t aware until the day it was revealed – attention is now turning towards the Japanese firm and its HRC arm to determine who at this late stage could be in line to replace him.

For now, the manufacturer is playing down the importance of the issue and instead focusing on Valencia, where it is still fighting Ducati Corse for the team’s title.

"We are thinking, but obviously we don’t have a clear answer at this moment," he told reporters, including Crash.net. "It's not a dramatic issue…

“The important thing is that Marc tries the new prototype next wee . Of course, it would be better to have two riders on track, don’t misunderstand me, but it will not be chaos if we have one. In any case probably Stefan [Bradl] will join us for the test."

Could Zarco, Crutchlow or Alex Marquez to replace Jorge Lorenzo?

The hot favourite for the available Repsol Honda seat is seemingly Johann Zarco, who could have timed his arrival at Honda to perfection. Estranged from KTM, the six-time podium has had a couple of strong showings for the satellite LCR Honda team in recent weeks and was already being touted as a possible replacement for Lorenzo even before he quit.

It’s quite the about-turn for a rider that at one stage was prepared to sit out 2020 altogether in the wake of his split from KTM. However, while he has been quick on his return to action, he is riding the 2018 Honda RC213V, which is known to be more compliant than the 2019 model, which requires a more aggressive riding style.

This is where Zarco struggled at KTM, which has a comparable philosophy to the Honda, making us wonder if he’d be jumping from a fire into the pan. Taking the alternative view, his time at KTM could better prepare him for the challenge ahead…

As for Cal Crutchlow, as he points out, he is not the one looking for a ride which could discount him from switching teams. While it would seem to be a promotion on one hand, the fact he is riding (effectively) the same machine as Marquez and retains team leader status at LCR means he may have more to lose than to gain by moving to Repsol Honda.

Another name being raised is Alex Marquez, newly crowned Moto2 World Champion and brother of Marc, to create a Marquez powerhouse of a team. It would certainly make a great headline and you can be certain no ‘walls’ would be going up in the pit box, but Marc and Alex have very different frames and it would place plenty of pressure on Alex to match his brother. Moreover, would Marc find himself distracted by having his brother alongside him…?

Marquez Snr has already indicated that he doesn't have a bearing on rider decision (whether you believe him or not...) but certainly perked up at the prospect of racing as brotherds-in-arms on the same bike.

Other options include Takaaki Nakagami, who enjoyed a notable step forward in 2019 and it well-liked among top brass who’d enjoy nothing more than a Japanese rider on a factory machine, while test rider Stefan Bradl is a steady pair of hands with plenty of experience.

Finally, there is also Alvaro Bautista, who joins the HRC fold’s new WorldSBK team once his current Ducati contract comes to an end. While Honda is unlikely to want to lose its star WorldSBK rider before he has even turned a wheel, you can bet the Spaniard will be eyeing up a MotoGP spot for 2021 now – perhaps a wild-card or two in 2020?