Repsol Honda have officially confirmed that Alex Marquez will partner his brother Marc at the Repsol Honda team for next year. It is the first time that a pair of brothers have raced in the same team in MotoGP. There have been other brothers riding in the same class at the same time - Aleix and Pol Espargaro the latest example of that, but never before have brothers raced in the same team in either 500cc or MotoGP.
Marc Marquez has made no secret over the years of his desire to share a team with his brother Alex, Alex being given a test ride on the Repsol Honda as a reward for winning the Moto3 title in 2014. Alex also filled in for the injured Tom Luthi at the test in Jerez in November 2017. There was a belief that Marc would try to bring Alex into the team in 2021, once Jorge Lorenzo's contract ended. But when news of Jorge Lorenzo's retirement broke, an opportunity opened up earlier.
At first, the younger Marquez brother was just one of a handful of candidates, a list which included Johann Zarco, Cal Crutchlow, Takaaki Nakagami, and even Alvaro Bautista. But as the weekend went on, it became increasingly clear that Alex Marquez would get the call, specifically at the request of brother Marc.
It is a risky move by Repsol Honda. The justification for taking Alex Marquez straight into the factory team is that he is the reigning Moto2 champion, and as such, deserves a slot in MotoGP. Honda can also argue that Jorge Lorenzo's decision to retire so late in the season forced their hand, limiting their options to find a suitable replacement. And the benefit of having Alex in Repsol alongside Marc is that the two are much more likely to work together than create friction inside the team.
But there are many dangers to having Alex Marquez alongside Marc. The first is that it obviously looks like the fact that Alex is Marc's brother played a major part in the decision. Whatever the merits of Alex Marquez having a seat in MotoGP - and as reigning Moto2 champion, he certainly deserves a chance in the premier class - it is unusual for rookies to go straight to factory teams outside of Suzuki, which has no satellite team.
There is also a huge risk that Marc Marquez will be distracted. If Alex does not adapt quickly to the Honda, Marc will be inundated with questions about whether it was a mistake to put Alex into such a high-pressure situation. Marc is also likely to feel obliged to try to help Alex, further taking his focus away from the job of winning the championship again in 2020. And if Alex doesn't immediately adapt to the 2020 RC213V, Honda will face a barrage of criticism for giving the ride to the younger Marquez brother, and be seen as weak in not standing up to the six-time MotoGP champion.
There could be a benefit in the longer term, of course. At the moment, Marc Marquez has no interest in making the Honda RC213V easier to ride, as long as it can do the things he needs it to do. The problems of other riders are not his concern at the moment.
But if Alex struggles, Marc may have an added motivation to try to improve the areas which would help all the Honda riders. It is in Marc Marquez' interest for his brother to be competitive, and if that means making the bike easier to ride, then he will surely be inclined to do that.
We will get to see how Alex Marquez gets on with the Honda from Tuesday. The reigning Moto2 champion will test at Valencia, though he will be testing the LCR Honda bike, the 2019-spec Honda RC213V which Takaaki Nakagami is due to get next year. What he tests at Jerez, and which garage he works out of, is as yet unanswered. Alex will get an extra three days of testing as well, alongside Brad Binder and Iker Lecuona, rookies being given permission to test during the MotoGP shakedown ahead of the Sepang test in February next year.
Alex Marquez leaves a vacant seat in Moto2 - most Moto2 contracts have a specific clause in them allowing the contract to be broken if the rider is offered a place in MotoGP - in the Marc VDS team. Johann Zarco is the most likely candidate to fill that seat, after the Frenchman turned down the chance to stay in MotoGP with Avintia Ducati.
The Repsol Honda press release appears below.
HRC sign Alex Marquez
Honda Racing Corporation is pleased to announce the signing of double World Champion Alex Marquez. The young Spanish rider will join the Repsol Honda Team on a one-year contract.
He will move from the intermediate class to partner eight-time World Champion Marc Marquez in 2020 for his debut season in the premier class aboard the Honda RC213V.