Honda MotoGP Team Manager Alberto Puig admitted on Friday in Malaysia that ex-rider Pol Espargaro is in a frame to make a shock return to the brand in 2024.

Honda has been searching for a replacement for six-time premier class champion Marc Marquez for next year after the Spaniard elected to sensationally quit the Japanese marque at the end of the season in favour of a move to Ducati satellite squad Gresini.

With Marquez only reaching his decision to leave Honda mid-way through October, the operation was left with few choices as most riders were already signed up for next season. Talks with Miguel Oliveira ended as Honda refused to offer him a three-year deal, with the favourites for the empty seat remaining Gresini refugee Fabio di Gianantonio and Speed Up Moto2 rider Fermin Aldeguer.

Speaking to Spanish broadcaster DAZN during practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix, Puig poured cold water on the chances of Aldeguer making the step up however. He stated that the rumours linking the two-time Moto2 race winner to the Honda berth were “100% false”, but conceded that talks had started with current GasGas rider Espargaro.

“I don’t know where that (Aldeguer rumour) came from, it’s 100% false,” began Puig.

“Yesterday I spoke to Aldeguer’s manager and I asked him where it came from and he didn’t know what to say.

“But Pol (Espargaro) is also a real possibility.”

Espargaro previously raced for the factory Honda squad across the 2021 and ’22 seasons, though struggled largely having only secured two rostrum finishes and a best championship result of 12th across these campaigns.

Having re-joined the KTM family for ’23 with the GasGas outfit, he found himself as the odd man out after the Austrian manufacturer elected to promote Moto2 star Pedro Acosta to the team for next year and chose Augusto Fernandez to remain alongside him. Espargaro missed the majority of the term having broken several vertebrae in a nasty crash in Portugal at the start of the season.

He signed a deal to remain as KTM’s reserve rider for next year, which includes a total of six wildcards across the year, though it remains to be seen whether he can come to an agreement with Honda instead to extend his full-time racing career.

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