If Marquez’s exit from Honda came as a surprise for many, the prospect of a return from Ducati is possibly more so… but it’s certainly not out of the question.
Indeed, while manufacturers are by their very nature fairly ruthless in matters of dropping one rider for another from their standpoint, it’s rarer for a rider to actively seek and succeed in leaving one firm for another, let alone one who has been so loyal for more than a decade.
Marquez is undoubtedly a competitive racer at heart, so it’s perhaps little wonder that he is sought a change after four fairly miserable seasons, both on and off track.
That said, you have to wonder whether Marquez would have taken the plunge but for the intel he has received and will benefit from by having his brother already stationed at Ducati.
Even so, while switching to a more competitive rival - even with a year-old bike - makes sense now, it’s tricky to see where Marquez would potentially factor into Ducati’s future plans.
The Italian firm has turned a corner from its erroneous habit of poaching established winners - Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Nicky Hayden - only to watch them struggle to apply their disparate styles to what was once at least an unforgiving package with a slender operating window.
By contrast, it is today seemingly more enticed by the prospect of nurturing young talent to success and moulding their malleable skillset around its machines, as it has with Pecco Bagnaia, Jorge Martin, Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi.
Indeed, one test aside, no-one quite knows how well Marquez will adapt to the rigours of the Ducati package over a either a race distance or on days when the GP23 is reluctant to play ball.
Playing hard to get
After all, Marquez’s arrival is somewhat ironic given the years Ducati spent trying to lure him from Honda, only to finally get his signature when it wasn’t pitching to him at all.
For now, much will depend on how competitive Marquez proves relative to his talented and plentiful stablemates, but the Spaniard will come into 2024 with very high targets that - if achieved - would put Ducati in something of an awkward position.
Indeed, Marquez is be a great champion and should he get back to his best on the right machinery, it would identify him as a logical candidate to swap Gresini grey for Ducati factory red in future based purely on results.
However, this doesn’t seem to tally with Ducati’s current trend and bosses have been noticeably hesitant when faced with questions about the prospect of Marquez one day donning an official race suit.
As such, if there is ‘no room at the Ducati factory inn’ come the end of 2025 - or even 2024 - Marquez might well find himself stuck in a satellite cycle with little motivation from up top to have him promoted to a factory ride.
So, if in the two years Marquez is absent, Honda turns a corner with its bike, it could well see the two parties hook up again. Perhaps after all of this, 'Marquez The Racer' just couldn't bring himself to spend more seasons waiting for Honda to catch up, making his upcoming stint at Ducati more of a 'loan' situation.
That said, if Honda turns a corner in part because Marquez isn’t around to dictate development, you have to wonder whether turning to him again is in the manufacturer’s best interests.
Time will tell, but for sure, the 2024 MotoGP World Championship is going to be a very interesting season…