During the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend, Honda team boss Alberto Puig told DAZN that there were three riders who were candidates to take the factory HRC spot being vacated by eight-time world champion Marquez.
Espargaro ruled himself out of this on Friday, telling the media at Sepang that he had held talks with Puig but had decided to remain with KTM as a test rider next season.
As Autosport has learned, contacts between Gianluca Falcioni, the Marini’s agent, and Puig intensified this Saturday in the Sepang paddock, after several meetings between the Spanish executive and the Japanese Honda officials, who had travelled to Malaysia.
Marini remained cagey on the subject when Autosport asked him about it on Friday in Malaysia.
Asked by Autosport if he’s held talks with Honda, he said: “Well, now, no, in this moment. Today, Friday.”
When pressed if these had happened at some point, he added: “Ah, this is… you need to talk with my manager.”
Marini did not deny that joining Honda appealed to him, despite already being contracted to VR46 for 2024 on the grid’s best bike.
“Yeah, you have the best bike, but going in a factory team and develop your own bike and talk with the engineers and follow a direction – your direction – everybody together, is a completely different thing,” he said when asked by Autosport if it made sense moving to Honda, from a competitive standpoint.
“I know that my package now is fantastic, the team is working very well, and Ducati is a fantastic bike performing well every time in every situation, every condition.
“But also, as a rider, I have dreams to achieve and to ride and work for a factory team is something really incredible, in my opinion.
“But it needs to be the correct project, the correct situation.”
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Luca Marini, VR46 Racing Team
He added on Friday: “The problem, in today’s MotoGP is that, in one year, with only five days of pre-season testing, there is no time for anything.
“My goal is to reach a factory structure and develop a bike, but it is essential to do it with the right opportunity.
“Doing just one year, in any MotoGP team is very risky for any rider.
“The Ducati is scary, it’s a bike that allows you to go fast. But, I have to say, developing a…