Dre’s Newswipe – Marquez and Martin, Ocon Leaves, Canapino on X

MotoGP’s Silly Season Explodes as Marquez and Martin both change teams, Esteban Ocon leaves Alpine and Juncos in IndyCar has another social media meltdown.

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Read time: 11 mins

And there was me thinking Monday in the run-up to the Canadian GP and no MotoGP for a month would lead to some rest for your mans. But the world of Motorsport never sleeps for long and throughout yesterday we had two massive stories drop on two wheels, Ocon finally putting an end to the talk of Alpine’s mess by heading for the exit door, and more nasty behaviour on and off the track coming off the Detroit Grand Prix. So it’s about time I brought back the Newswipe, where I try to make sense of…*gestures wildly*…this shit. Let’s get into it.

Credit to my colleagues at the Network – German Garcia Casanova and Uri Puigdemont for breaking the story yesterday morning that Marc Marquez is heading to the factory Ducati team for 2025 after the reports were dropping a week prior that it was going to be Jorge Martin getting the seat.

The story is that Ducati higher-ups had chosen Jorge Martin for the Factory job between Catalunya and Mugello last week, and had a handshake agreement with him on the deal. Ducati aimed to promote Martin in-house, and then convince Marc Marquez to move to Pramac for 2025 so that he could get factory support and it would be a cool sweetener to try and keep Pramac on Ducati’s, with the Italian team deliberating between whether to stay on Ducati’s exclusive support deal, or switching to Yamaha’s for 2025 with the promise of free bikes and equal status with the factory.

Credit to Dorna’s own and friend of the show Lyla Carvallo for this awesome Marquez Ducati mock-up, give her a follow and tell her I sent you. @lylasthinking

Well, Marc made a power play when he got to Mugello. He told the press that Pramac “was not an option”, citing not wanting to race for two customer teams in two years. Ducati’s plan was shot down in flames. They aimed to try to appease everyone, but that was now impossible. Martin wanted a factory deal or he’d leave. Ducati wanted Marquez on a Pramac so it didn’t have to consider a fifth factory bike to lob to Gresini. And Marc wanted a factory bike, regardless of colour. 

Ducati panicked. At the eleventh hour, they went back on their word and told Martin that they were signing Marquez instead. Martin understandably, took his ball and went home, fed up with how Bologna was handling their business. Last time, after talking to best mate Aleix Espargaro, Aprilia found out there was a chance to get Martin in. Their legal team worked through the night and got a contract ironed out. By yesterday evening, Jorge Martin was confirmed to be an Aprilia rider, beating Ducati to all the world’s press while their Italian partners focused on yesterday’s test at Mugello. 

What to make of all this? Well, Marc Marquez played politics and it worked to perfection. He’s been too good on the GP23 bike this year to ignore how consistently excellent he’s been and how fast he’s had to adapt to the bike. And let’s not forget, he’s Marc Marquez—an eight-time World Champion and by far, the biggest name in the sport today. If you can get the man as a brand ambassador to help sell your £40,000 Panigale’s, you take that chance, even if it’s come off pretty clearly to this writer that Bologna wasn’t sure whether to put the competition factor of Jorge Martin first, or whether to take the riskier option of Marquez, a rider still clearly elite, but we’ve not truly seen at his best in half a decade. 

This is now an incredibly fascinating situation – Having Francesco Bagnaia and Marc Marquez in the same roof is going to be wild. The two best riders of the last decade, the man who’s mastered the technical overhaul the factory has gone through, versus arguably the sport’s greatest ever natural talent. Two men who have fought at the highest level a handful of times, largely respectfully, but now with even more meaning behind it as the two immediate title favourites. 

It wouldn’t surprise me if we suddenly get a lot more folks in red show up in the Gresini garage when we get to Assen at the end of the month now it’s in Ducati’s best interest to give Marc every chance of success. Will he be able to bring Frankie Carchedi along with him, the crew chief who worked wonders with Fabio Di Giannantonio and a beloved part of the Gresini setup?

Then there’s Jorge Martin, who still has every chance of bringing the #1 plate to Noale by 2025. It says a great deal about Aprilia and their progression as a factory that they were able to convince the leader of the World Championship that their team is a viable contender worth switching to. How he’ll adapt to switch remains to be seen though – Ducati is all that Martin’s ever known, and Aprilia is a different animal, excelling far more in slippery conditions and better utilising the incredible downforce their bike generates. His raw speed is virtually unmatched in MotoGP, but taking Aprilia from a two-win team to a 10-win team will be a big effort. 

The rest of the silly season just got opened up too. Enea Bastianini, the forgotten man in the Ducati reshuffle, will likely be heading to Tech3 KTM for 2025, with Acosta now locked into the factory team alongside veteran Brad Binder, and Aprilia now off the table with the Italian team likely to retain Maverick Vinales. Not a bad third prize, but you’re playing second fiddle to the phenom Spanish wonderkid. Then it becomes a matter of who gets the final KTM, with Jack Miller still the likely favourite after Francesco Guidotti openly said on TNT Sports at Mugello that they want to keep the Aussie in-house. I do wonder if Tech3 would be a good landing spot for Sergio Garcia given he has the Moto2 Championship lead at the moment. 

There’s still the tricky matter for Ducati of Fermin Aldeguer – If Pramac switches, they can’t take him, meaning someone at either VR46 or Gresini would have to take him and he’d be forced to ride a GP24, which wasn’t the plan. Would VR46 take him over say… Frankie Morbidelli, their first graduate and family friend? Gresini seems far more viable now they have an open seat. Pramac’s lineup becomes a total crapshoot if they move to Yamaha. 

And then there’s some of the other names floating around. Joan Mir will be on the board after almost certainly escaping Honda and life as a crash test dummy. Surely he’d be a better fit for Trackhouse than taking the commercial option in Moto2’s Joe Roberts… right? I’m delighted the American is having a career year in the class and putting Kalex on his back, but at 26-year old seventh full-time season isn’t an A-Tier pick, especially when Jack Miller, Augusto Fernandez, Miguel Oliviera and Fabio Di Giannantonio are all floating around as potential contenders. Al Ogura could be back in contention for a MotoGP seat at Honda too, replacing Taka Nakagami if he continues his strong comeback. 

MotoGP’s having an all-timer silly season and even with two, maybe three big pieces of the puzzle now in place, there’s still many, MANY questions to be asked.

PS: Man, I wonder if Fabio Quartararo regrets signing that whopper of a contract so early…

Amazing that by the time Real Madrid announced they signed Kylian Mbappe, Esteban Ocon leaving Alpine was the fourth biggest sports story of the day. A good day to drop bad news.

Anyway, to me it’s pretty wild that Ocon leaving Alpine somehow felt like it was completely unsurprising but still surprising at the same time. The French team’s struggles have been very front-facing and public in recent years, but to see their talismanic driver and most loyal entity get up and walk is still startling.

It’s another notch on Alpine’s bedpost of departures. From team bosses like Marcin Budkowski and Otmar Szefnauer to technical heads like Matt Harman, Dirk De Beer, Alan Permane and operations head Rob White fired last week, to drivers like Fernando Alonso pulling management’s pants down, the embarrassment of that Oscar Piastri tweet and the risky hiring of Pierre Gasly, who while largely fine, still has big soap opera energy. 

This may be a hot take, but Esteban Ocon for me is the most under-appreciated driver in F1. Seeing people in my Inbox when the news dropped, and seeing many fans label him as a locker room poison seems exaggerated. Whenever he’s had teammate clashes, he’s been the victim more often than not, with Monaco 2024 being the outlier rather than the clause. He kept Fernando Alonso honest in the same machine in the two years they were teammates. And it’s not like Ocon asked Alpine to sign Pierre Gasly when he was the established man in the team already.

Most of that last paragraph has taken place in the last 12 months. I’ve not even mentioned entering the 2024 season with a car lacking downforce, being 10 kilogrammes over the minimum weight limit, and multiple needless clashes on track. Just two points scored in eight Grand Prix has the team sitting ninth in the Constructor’s Standings, with only Kick Sauber below them. When you consider all of that, is it any surprise the man who’s stayed loyal to you through the last half-decade might realise he’s burning away his prime?

Alpine has enough resources to where I think they’ll recover their crummy car, but seeing one of the stronger midfield driver pairings destabilise isn’t ideal. I think if Mick Schumacher wants to come back, I think he’s an easy plug-in driver and I was always in the camp that he was hard done by at Haas where he outperformed Kevin Magnussen in races. It seems Jack Doohan is a viable contender as well, which wouldn’t be a bad hire either (Always thought he was under-appreciated in F2), but him being more of an unknown quantity makes him risky. And sadly, we all know Alpine’s always been reluctant to push someone up from their academy unless it’s for someone else’s team, or in IndyCar. #FreeLundgaard

As for where Ocon goes, that’s intriguing. It looks like the Red Bull umbrella is closed off with Sergio Perez and Yuki Tsunoda expected to sign new deals imminently. Mercedes is an option with Toto Wolff still managing the Frenchman’s career but they seem all-in on Kimi Antonelli. That likely leaves Audi as the top option, but he’s competing head-to-head with Carlos Sainz, and I’m not sure he will win that fight on merit alone unless the Spaniard is still holding out for a better seat that might not exist. The back end of the grid has potential openings too who I think would all see Ocon as an upgrade on their existing lineups – Haas and Williams should be snapping Ocon up if the opportunity to do so is there. 

If nothing else, Ocon’s departure should be a reminder of just how messy Alpine has become, even if it hasn’t been F1’s headline story in recent years. 

Annoyingly, within an hour of me hitting publish on my Detroit Grand Prix Review, another rather ugly situation was developing on Elon Musk’s failed business investment. It turns out the onboard footage of Theo Pourchaire hitting Agustin Canapino’s Juncos car from Detroit went viral on the platform, and as a result, a fleet of Argentine fans started abusing Pourchaire on X, including death threats. 

McLaren and Juncos released a joint statement condemning the behaviour of the fans… but it didn’t exactly look great when that onboard footage also had the team radio from Canapino’s car with team boss Ricardo Juncos calling Pourchaire “The son of 1,000 whores” in Spanish. It looked even worse when Canapino started liking tweets from his fellow countrymen mocking Pourchaire for his mistake. 

If this all sounds familiar to you, we had similar experiences at Long Beach too when Canapino and Callum Illot tangled there. It’s the exact same thing he did at Laguna Seca during the 2023 season finale, liking tweets (Which we can see Agustin, they’re public), while Ricardo put the team and series in disrepute by implying he gave team orders during the race, with the aforementioned abuse towards Illot, a culmination of a feud that went as far back as the start of that season which lead to him being fired. This should be strike three.

For those who know their IndyCar, this was meant to mean something different. Canapino driving for Juncos was down to the man’s late father and Ricardo’s close friend Alberto, who tragically passed away from COVID-19 in 2021.  It was Ricardo’s dream to have someone from his country of Argentina represent him in IndyCar.

It makes it doubly frustrating because the story of an Argentine immigrant crossing into America and building a team up into the biggest open-wheel series in North America should be a wonderful, feel good story. Canapino has carried himself wonderfully on TV, learning fluent English in a matter of weeks and coming across as humble, genuinely happy to be in the series. But all that goodwill is being pissed away because the angry, petty behaviour from himself and his team boss behind the scenes keeps being exposed in public and the fans are taking the bait. 

This statement from Juncos Hollinger Racing came out as I was writing this post. Wonder if they’re going to look inside their house first.

Yes, I’ve been told by many Argentine friends that they’re really passionate about their sports, and that’s not inherently a bad thing, and yes, Pourchaire made an honest mistake and that’s frustrating, but being critical is one thing, abusing a 20-year old driver to the point of threatening to kill him is disgusting, and it keeps happening. Juncos can write all the statements they want about abuse, but both the team, its boss and the favoured man in the garage are all complicit in this behaviour. 

Who is holding these men to account? Why hasn’t Brad Hollinger, the other owner of his team, stepped in to address this PR nightmare? Why hasn’t IndyCar themselves, the series claiming it isn’t a platform for abuse, and who has access to the team radios and know exactly what’s being said, not interjecting and cutting this off at the pass? The time for empty statements has come and gone, the series is enabling horrible behaviour from within its own four walls and we’re seeing the consequences of their inactions. 

In the time it’s taken for me to write this on the morning of June 4th, Canapino’s since written a statement, condemning the abuse, but also denying that death threats have been sent and got defensive about the generalisations of sports fans from his country. As much as yes, it would be unfair to generalise an entire country’s sports fans, it feels like the man has entirely missed the point. You can’t condemn the abuse others have faced while also denying how severe it is, essentially calling Pourchaire a liar. This is undeniable gaslighting of everything that’s gone down in the last year and change at Juncos, and the sort of behaviour that often vindicates the worst of society.

Ricardo needs to be pulled to one side and be told in no uncertain terms, this needs to stop. He is accountable for how his team is run and right now, it’s unfit for the public. And Canapino is a grown man of 34, and he’s acting like a child who’s stolen a Mars bar from the local newsagents and then blamed the shop owner for having them on display. Both need to do better. 

It all puts pushing a button at the wrong time into perspective, doesn’t it?

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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