"Chapeau! What a great move!" is how many responded when Honda announced Jorge Lorenzo had agreed—in a surprise decision that shocked the MotoGP world—to ride for the Repsol-backed factory team for the next two years. Just when everyone thought Lorenzo's future was heading toward a return to Yamaha, he switched from Ducati to Honda.

This master play happened because of Lorenzo’s determination, for his refusal to accept the situation into which he had been pushed—something along the lines of, “This is not what I want.” And so, determined to take control of his future, he picked up his phone and made a call.

The last year and a half have not been easy for Lorenzo. Expectations for his arrival as a multimillionaire into the Ducati garages were far from fulfilled. His adaptation time to the unique characteristics of the Italian bike took much longer than expected—too long, in fact. Teammate Andrea Dovizioso adding one success after another on the same bike with which Lorenzo was struggling didn’t help at all.

The comparisons between the 12-million-euro rider and the 1-million-euro rider were unavoidable, and the focus, which had first been on Lorenzo, turned to the rider who was actually winning and challenging for the championship. Jorge’s touchy character created further distance between him and his surroundings. Doubts about whether he would be able to fulfill what he was hired to do began to settle in among the ranks of Ducati.

The start of the season didn't improve the picture. On the contrary, it looked like Lorenzo's adaptation to the Desmosedici GP18 had gone backward. And as talks about the futures of MotoGP riders began, Lorenzo's continuity at Ducati was in question. Team and rider established June as the deadline to sit down to define their future. But the "messages" Ducati sent over the last few weeks were clearly pointing to a non-renewal.

Aware of this, Lorenzo—read, his manager—started to look for potential alternatives. The first contact was with Honda, where he was told there was zero interest. The next door to knock on was that of Suzuki. The idea of Jorge joining that team was received with interest. A conversation began. There was also still a hope that strong performances would reopen the Ducati option. It was the phase of the season when Lorenzo was saying, “I need good results to raise my value.” But those results did not arrive.

Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Márquez
Jorge Lorenzo (right) will take Dani Pedrosa’s place on the factory Repsol Honda squad alongside Marc Márquez (left) next season. Pedrosa (middle) has not yet announced his plans for the future.Courtesy of Honda

After failing once more in Le Mans—in the past, one of his most successful races—Lorenzo hit rock bottom. His efforts at becoming competitive were not working, the possibility he would stay with Ducati was almost zero, and the Suzuki opportunity was also thinning. After the French GP, Lorenzo was completely demoralized and he considered quitting at the end of the season. But in the two weeks between Le Mans and Mugello, the situation turned around.

Knowing what was happening, series rights-holder Dorna reassured Lorenzo. Malaysian petrol-giant Petronas would help by providing backing for Yamahas. It wouldn’t be a factory team like he had been on since his arrival to MotoGP, but it would be a good team with bikes he knew well. The sun seemed to be shining once again on Lorenzo.

Jorge Lorenzo
With 13 races remaining on his two-year contract with Ducati, Lorenzo has thus far earned four podiums, including one victory—two weeks ago at Mugello—on the factory Desmosedici.Courtesy of Ducati

But it was not enough for Jorge. The perspective of having to ride on a satellite team didn’t satisfy him. He was Jorge Lorenzo, five-time world champion, three of them in MotoGP. He still had blind trust in himself, in his skills to ride a MotoGP bike, in being competitive when he had the right tool in his hands. “Why don’t we try with Honda again?” he asked his manager.

But this time, in the days prior to the Italian GP, Lorenzo himself phoned HRC team manager Alberto Puig. Lorenzo explained that, although it might look different due the lack of results, he was better than ever, his motivation was at the highest level, and he was ready to face a task that Ducati hadn’t let him finish. He assured Puig that his commitment was real.

Puig promised Lorenzo he would speak with his Japanese bosses, who by that time had already told him that they didn’t see continuing with Dani Pedrosa as a positive option; there was a place available on the strongest team in the paddock. HRC top management gave the green light to the revolutionary project presented by Puig. Final negotiations took place during the weekend of the Italian GP.

Two days after Lorenzo won his first MotoGP race with Ducati, Honda announced the 31-year-old Spaniard would be Marc Márquez’s teammate for the next two seasons. Lorenzo had played with two decks and won.