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MotoGP Dutch GP

The Ducati MotoGP power dynamics Bagnaia must now manage

MotoGP world champion speaks about incoming team-mate Marc Marquez for the first time ahead of Dutch Grand Prix

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Reigning double MotoGP world champion Francesco Bagnaia believes Marc Marquez "is smart and he'll understand" how to maintain Ducati's success in 2025.

Following the Italian Grand Prix, Ducati announced it has signed Marquez to a two-year contract to join its factory team from 2025 alongside Bagnaia.

Marquez's refusal to take a factory bike at Pramac next year scared Ducati management into a U-turn on its original decision to give the works team seat to Jorge Martin, who will now ride for Aprilia.

That moment proved a major powerplay for the eight-time world champion, showing the influence he holds within MotoGP despite a difficult four years prior at Honda.

It is understood that the Valentino Rossi camp was angry at Ducati's decision to promote Marquez into the factory team, wary of the destabilisation he could cause as he seeks a ninth world title.

Asked for his perspective about it in the pre-event press conference at Assen on Thursday, Bagnaia said: "From my perspective I wasn't included in the decision because it's something that I asked, I just wanted to be focused on the race track.

"In both cases was more or less the same situation because Jorge and Marc are super-fast. In this moment Jorge has more of a feeling with the bike, more experience with the bike, so he is faster.

"But in any case, was more or less very similar in terms of speed of team-mates.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marc Marquez, Gresini Racing

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"So, for me it's a new challenge, a new team-mate to beat. And it will be fun. Marc is very smart guy and we will understand very perfectly the way to adapt to the team and to work to improve our situation again."

This was a toned-down version of a comment of veiled caution Bagnaia projected to DAZN at Assen, in which he said: "I found out about Marc's signing on Monday at Mugello. I already knew it was a possibility. I think Marc is a smart rider, and he knows how to adapt to the situation.

"We are the strongest team of all at the moment, and if we want to continue like this, improving the bike and growing, we have to continue like this. But Marc is smart and he'll understand that."

Reading between the lines, this is Bagnaia laying down a clear message to Marquez: do not upset the balance of this team.

Marquez's domination years on the Honda came with very little in the way of intra-team rivalry, as he was easily the best rider of HRC's stable. As others struggled, Marquez took the bike to results it had no business achieving, and so Honda's bike development was done cautiously so as not to upset that balance.

When he badly broke his arm at the 2020 Spanish GP, that prompted a rethink and ultimately led to the pair's split last year as the bike developed so far in the wrong direction not even Marquez could coax much out of it.

In just his second round on the Gresini-run 2023-spec Ducati, Marquez got onto the podium in the Portugal sprint but collided with Bagnaia in the latter stages of the grand prix in what was their first flashpoint of the year.

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

At the Spanish GP, the duo battled hard for victory, colliding at Turn 10 in the final laps. They stayed onboard their bikes and Bagnaia came out on top. But that was the moment it became clear that Marquez had fully adapted to the Ducati and his name was a firm contender for the factory team seat.

From this weekend's Dutch GP, Bagnaia isn't just battling for a third world title now. Any defeat of Marquez is a mental advantage in drawing the battlelines for when they become team-mates. For Marquez, winning over Bagnaia will be proof that Ducati was right to pick him.

The "balance" to MotoGP Ducati's Marquez decision will bring

The after-effects of Ducati's decision are already showing. Instantly, it sent Martin to Aprilia – something Marquez has noted was "a risky decision because they have said no to a great rider like Martin to choose me".

Five-time grand prix winner Enea Bastianini has taken his speed and bike knowledge to KTM, while Marco Bezzecchi jumps off of a VR46-run Ducati to join Martin at the factory Aprilia squad.

Though 2024 has not been a good season for the three-time grand prix winner, Bezzecchi is walking away from likely having a factory Ducati next year with VR46 now poised to get the marque's exclusive works support with Pramac now set to join Yamaha.

"I think Ducati, by the strategy that they have taken – which I respect – they've helped the other manufacturers a lot, that's for sure," Aleix Espargaro said at Assen on Thursday.

"KTM is going to be super strong, Aprilia is going to be really strong with really motivated riders in KTM and Aprilia. Looks like they are going to lose two bikes, so we're going to balance the championship."

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia Racing Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

Ducati's original plan was to promote Martin to the factory team and give Marquez a factory bike at Pramac, and in doing so having its cake and eating it.

Marquez's refusal to join Pramac kicked that dream to death. Signing him has cost it the current championship leader, knocked its stable down from eight bikes to six and caused concern from within the camp of its double world champion.

All of this will undoubtedly have a huge impact on how the remainder of the 2024 title battle unfolds.

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