Posted: 17 Apr 2014
The rumour mill has kicked off early in MotoGP this year and with very good reason too: Most top riders are out of contract at the end of the season. So far, speculation has largely surrounded one of them, Jorge Lorenzo. After being beaten to the title by a Honda last year, many rumours suggest Lorenzo will leave Yamaha for a rival manufacturer. At first it was Ducati (but that was soon rubbished) however now the rumours surround a more plausible option: Lorenzo jumping ship to Honda.
The 2014 MotoGP season couldn’t have started much worse for the Yamaha rider; he fell from the lead on the first lap of the race in Qatar and received a ride-through penalty in Austin after jumping the start by a country-mile. These two mistakes leave Lorenzo sixteenth in the championship standings, a whopping 44 points behind the man who beat him to the title last year.
OK so riders make mistakes, it happens, but not for Lorenzo. The Spaniard is known for his perfect and smooth riding style, rarely putting an inch out of place. In fact, Lorenzo hasn’t made a mistake in a dry race since he fell whilst battling with Rossi at Brno back in 2009. With Lorenzo making two, very amateur mistakes in the first two races of the season effectively ruling out his title challenge before it’s even started, there’s clearly something going on.
He’s not been happy with the 2014 Yamaha M1 from the off, at first complaining that it was too aggressive and then finding issues with rear grip from Bridgestone’s new tyre but there must be more to it than that. Marc Marquez has shown to be simply unstoppable, taking both pole position and the race victory in both races so far this season. If Lorenzo is unsure about whether he’s got the package capable of beating Marquez from the off, it would always be a concern and let’s face it, this concern could explain the crash in Qatar pushing too hard too early and the insane mistake of jumping the start in Austin. If Marquez is getting inside Lorenzo’s head, it could well affect the next steps taken by the Spaniard in terms of his career.
It’s no secret Honda has been after Lorenzo’s signature for quite some time; he is one of the two best riders on the grid. If they were to have both Lorenzo and Marquez in their stable they should, in theory, be unbeatable. It would be a win-win situation; the chances of Honda taking the title would be the absolute maximum but would a move to Honda be the best thing for Lorenzo though?
Lorenzo will want to show he can beat Marquez and in order to do that he will consider controlling as many extraneous variables as possible, including mechanical difference. If Lorenzo knows he can beat Marquez, he will want to show it and there is no way better of showing you’re capable than beating a rider on the same machinery. If Lorenzo signs for Honda, it will be for that reason – he wants to show he can beat Marquez outright on the same bike.
It’s not quite that simple though as a move to Honda would come with incredible risk. While Yamaha may not have brought a package to the table capable of beating Marquez so far this season (in the hands of Lorenzo at least) they remain the only team with the budget and current form to do it. Yamaha will be ploughing all the money and expertise they have into beating Marquez so it would seem silly to leave that for a team who at best don’t care if you can beat the21 year old, and at worst, want Marquez to win. It can’t be ignored, ever since he stepped foot in the 125cc paddock, Marquez was destined for the Repsol Honda MotoGP ride. He is Repsol’s main man so would the Spanish petroleum giant be happy to see someone, even another Spaniard, come in and beat him?
That’s not taking into account the money, if Honda offer Lorenzo enough cash over Yamaha the chances are he would take it. Why not? A career as a MotoGP rider can be relatively short lived, you certainly won’t be doing it until the national retirement age – riders like to ensure they are financially sorted for life.
What would happen if Lorenzo moved to Honda and didn’t beat Marquez, or worse, didn’t beat Yamaha? That could well be game over. Bad seasons happen, that’s racing. Making a decision to change manufacturer after a couple of bad years can be a huge mistake. Look at Valentino Rossi, he was beaten twice in succession in 2006/2007 when Yamaha didn’t have the most competitive package but he didn’t jump ship, he remained loyal and went on to win two more World titles with the Japanese marque.
Chances are that Lorenzo will stay with Yamaha. He’s made it clear he’d like to be a Yamaha rider until the end of his career but if he doesn’t think he can beat Marquez aboard a YZR-M1, he won’t stay. After just two rounds it’s not clear cut whether or not the Yamaha is capable so for now, we wait.