With the uncertainty over Jorge Lorenzo’s future at the factory Honda team in MotoGP there was always the possibility for some late 2020 rider market drama.
This proved the case with Lorenzo announcing his retirement from the sport at the 2019 season finale in Valencia, paving the way for some potentially significant rider moves.
There were quite a few names attached with the briefly vacant Honda ride with most being logical choices of either Cal Crutchlow who has ridden a 2019 RC213V Honda with the LCR team this season, as well as Johann Zarco also being linked with the ride having ridden the 2018 RC213V, also with LCR for the final three races of the 2019 season.
A perhaps slightly surprising name to crop up was that of Alex Marquez. Although his brother is the star rider in the Repsol Honda team, Alex did have a 2020 Moto2 ride with Marc VDS finalised and was therefore locked in contractually.
Very quickly however Alex became the favourite and sure enough he was confirmed alongside Marc for the 2020 season. It will be a one season deal, to keep Alex in line with other MotoGP rider contracts. This is a risk as it doesn’t give the Spaniard a lot of time to settle and prove he deserves to remain with the factory team for 2021 and beyond.
This is due to there being a lot of expectation for 2021 contracts, especially those with top teams, to be finalised either in late 2019 or at the very least in early 2020, which doesn’t give Alex many races to make an impression in the premier class.
What the Spaniard needs to do in order to keep his Honda ride for 2021, or at the very least stay in the MotoGP class for 2021 is intriguing. I believe it would be unwise to expect him to be matching his brother. Although this is not impossible for him to emulate Marc, in as much as being able to find his feet in the MotoGP class quickly. Therefore it is potentially best for Alex to be aiming to be near Cal Crutchlow throughout the 2020 season as the Briton is perhaps a more realistic target but still a high benchmark for the Spaniard to aim for.
There is added weight to this when you consider that Crutchlow achieved three podium finishes in 2019 as he ultimately finished ninth with 133 points and retired from six races. Compare that to Marc Marquez who finished on the podium in eighteen races, and accumulated 420 points across the season with just one retirement.
My biggest fear is if too many expect too much from Alex in his rookie season in MotoGP. For reference when it comes to the second Repsol Honda rider in the last two seasons, Lorenzo managed nine points finishes in 2019 with a highest finish of eleventh, while in 2018 Dani Pedrosa managed thirteen points finishes with a highest finish of fifth and twelve races classified inside the top ten. Pedrosa ended his final season in MotoGP with 117 points and eleventh place in the championship.
Outside of Lorenzo, who is an anomaly due to his injures in 2019, a one hundred point haul and a finish just inside or outside of the top ten should be considered a good return for Alex Marquez in his first season in the premier class.
Other riders to benchmark Alex Marquez against is previous rookies, such as Fabio Quartararo, Franco Morbidelli in 2018 or Johann Zarco in 2017. The biggest problem with this however is that two of those examples having ridden Yamaha bikes in their rookie season, perceived to be an easier bike to ride, while Morbidelli did make his debut on a Honda with the Marc VDS team.
While it may not be too realistic to benchmark against previous rookie seasons, Alex Marquez can emulate Quartararo to a certain extent in taking command of the 2020 rookie of the year battle. There are set to be a total of three rookies for the 2020 season with Alex joined by Brad Binder (Factory KTM) and Iker Lecuona (KTM Tech 3).
The above are just some of the ways to analyse and judge how good a season Alex Marquez has in the premier class in 2020. However any individual judges the Spaniard during the season, I hope that he is able to quietly impress in 2020 and that expectations of him are kept realistic. It is worth remembering from his time in Moto3 and Moto2, that he is seen as a rider who takes time to get to grips with a particular class of motorbike. It will be exciting to see whether this is the case in MotoGP in 2020 and what Alex Marquez ultimately achieves in his maiden MotoGP season.