In the course in which the contracts of Fabio Quartararo and Joan Mir with Yamaha and Suzuki, respectively, expire, the market situation and the drop in wages in MotoGP significantly limits the strength of the last two world champions when it comes time to negotiate your future. That makes renewing their current agreements the best alternative for both.
In the circumstances prior to the pandemic, both the Spanish and the French would rub their hands to the extent that their agents would be in a position to use the titles of 2020 (Mir) and 2021 (Quartararo) as a measure of pressure to leverage, and depending on the available options, sign for the most attractive proposal. The problem for them is that the situation is not favorable at this precise moment to deploy an aggressive strategy. The lack of gaps, the policy of some manufacturers such as Ducati and Honda and the cache that the #20 and #36 have earned, have become allies of Yamaha and Suzuki, whose managers are aware of the situation. For this reason, neither Iwata nor Hamamatsu seem excessively concerned about the possibility that their two main bets could eventually change places.
Last week we echoed the salary reduction that will materialize in the 2022 grid, of around 20% compared to 2018. Neither Quartararo nor Mir live on the sidelines of that collapse, although between both cases there are some differences that are worth the worth analyzing in depth, starting with the newly crowned.
Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing, 2021 MotoGP World Champion
Photo by: Dorna
Not a week after celebrating his premiere as champion in the heavy bike category, Quartararo left the first pre-season tests, in Jerez, with more doubts than certainties about the M1 that Yamaha had put on the track. In the absence of some other detail, that should be the basis of the bike with which to try to revalidate the title in 2022. “It is still early to sign. I don’t want to sign anything before at least going to Malaysia. I prefer to see the evolution of our bike first, I think that’s normal. What is not, is signing with a view to 2023 without having started 2022. I know what I want. I will wait a bit to see how the Yamaha is doing, its evolution in Sepang”, commented the Devil, before launching a very clear message addressed to the executives: “If I see that Yamaha is going in a totally different direction, that could affect my future. here”.
Quartararo landed in the official Yamaha team in 2021, but the contract that took him there was finalized at the beginning of 2020. That year, the Nice rider competed in the Sepang Racing Team (SRT) suit, although his status was already practically identical to that of Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, at that time the reference pair of the fingerboard brand. As a factory runner, Quartararo had a stipulated base salary of around 2.5 million euros to complement with variables, depending on the results obtained. This year, with the five victories and the title as a culmination, the new champion has pocketed about four million euros. A real bargain for the Japanese constructor that in just three years will have gone from spending some twelve million euros, between Rossi’s and Viñales’ salaries, to paying close to 5.5 million, with Quartararo starting from those four million and Franco Morbidelli, one and a half.
At Yamaha they are aware of the need to update the figures of the link with their first rider, because at the moment he is well below the status he has earned. Probably, the renewal offer to Quartararo will be around seven million euros, bonuses aside. As always happens when the fixed amount is increased, the emoluments derived from the performance of the runners decrease, so that, in this way, the thing does not go off in case the successes do. As the grid is today, and if we attend to the needs of the different teams without neglecting their real possibilities, no one apart from Yamaha will pay Quartararo so much money. Basically because nobody has that urgency. And the same goes for Mir and Suzuki, from whom the Mallorcan receives just over seven million euros after the World Cup that took place in 2020 set that amount as a base for the following seasons.
To understand the context, it is essential to broaden the focus and look for what could be useful to the representatives of Quartararo and Mir to use as a measure of pressure. And there the main stumbling block is born: the shortage of teams willing to pay what their representatives believe they deserve.
From the outset, the priority of Aprilia and KTM is to optimize their bikes, before worrying about looking for a first sword that allows them to compete for the biggest prize (the title). Ducati, on the other hand, has implemented a policy of brutal salary reduction since the departure of Andrea Dovizioso (2020), to the extent of having the salaries of its five riders on the payroll covered (Bagnaia, Miller, Martín, Zarco and Bastianini) , for less than 3.5 million euros in total. “As far as drivers are concerned, we are covered; we don’t have the need to go looking for the market. Peco has shown that he can contend for the title, hopefully Jack is also in contention, and we have a lot of young talent with Martin and Bastianini,” Paolo Ciabatti , sporting director of the Borgo Panigale firm, told Motorsport.com. “Ducati will hardly pay the salary that neither Joan nor Fabio are going to want to receive, because they don’t need it”, emphasizes Albert Valera , agent of several of the biggest diamonds in the event, such as Martín himself or Pedro Acosta , the sensation of the last championship in Moto3, where he was champion. “I think that in Bologna they are aware of the need to update several of their riders’ contracts, which are well below what they should be. But in no case so much as to reach what Quartararo and Mir should ask for”, adds Valera.
The situation at Honda, the other big company that could host them, is different, because so are their priorities right now. There everything remains waiting to gauge the performance that Marc Márquez will be able to offer when he gets back on the bike, starting at the Sepang tests this weekend. Honda is only interested in knowing what the evolution of its multi-champion and flagship will be, after the two injuries that it has suffered in the last year; the first in the shoulder, which separated him from the circuits for nine months, and the second in the right eye, which prevented him from taking part in the last two stops of the last calendar (Portimao and Valencia), and in the November tests in Sherry.
Joan Mir, Team Suzuki MotoGP, MotoGP World Champion 2020
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
As little good as the one from Cervera (Lleida) is, the giant with the golden wing will continue to deliver to the one who has served him his last six titles in the queen class, of the nine that have been put into play since 2013. It is difficult to think that Honda can go for Quartararo, for different reasons. In the first place, because with Márquez in a position to win races – in 2021 he took three without being at his highest level – Pol Espargaró fits in well as his workshop neighbor, even though his results have been, so far, more discreet. than expected. Then there is the lack of guarantees that the Frenchman can offer his best version with the RC213V, given its obvious differences with the Yamaha. And finally, the economic aspect.
The case of Mir is similar, although at Honda there is more conviction that the Spaniard has wicks to be able to give what is expected of him with the prototype with the golden wing. Alberto Puig already tried to convince the Balearic when he promoted to MotoGP (2019), offering him a position in the LCR team, but the one from Palma chose to sign with Suzuki. Mir, for the rest, knows that he would arrive at HRC with the label of second, while at Suzuki he has earned on his own merits to be seen as the spearhead of the project. “It is normal for Honda to be focused on Marc’s recovery, even though, as has been seen in recent years, trusting everything to a letter can put you at risk,” summarizes Paco Sánchez , Mir’s agent, to whom he writes These lines. Without verbalizing it explicitly, this representative, one of the most experienced in the paddock – he is also in charge of Remy Gardner –, agrees that, most likely, the best thing, both for his client and for Quartararo, is not move from where they are because no one will offer them what they have.