On the eve of the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend it was confirmed that Biaggi had both left Suzuki's factory World Superbike team, where he finished an excellent third during his debut 2007 season, and begun preliminary talks with Honda Gresini.

The thought of Biaggi back on a Honda MotoGP machine seemed inconceivable to many. After all, Biaggi's bitter split with Repsol Honda at the end of 2005 saw the Roman effectively banned from any Honda grand prix ride, even though Camel were waiting to bankroll a deal with the satellite Pons team.

HRC held firm in the face of pressure from Camel, leaving Biaggi without a MotoGP seat for 2006 - and bringing down the Pons team in the process.

"[Camel] considers the veto against [Max Biaggi] as unjustified from many points of view, and has thus decided to break off relationships in MotoGP with Honda and with the Pons team," said a statement from the tobacco manufacturer.

Camel took its money to the factory Yamaha team for 2006, while Biaggi spent a year out of racing before reviving his career with 17 podiums from 25 races in WSBK this season. The multi race-winning Pons team has never been seen since.

Could such a deep rift between Honda and Biaggi ever be bridged?

Honda Europe's Carlo Fiorani appears to think so, telling La Gazzetta dello Sport that: "There were tensions [between Biaggi and Honda], but nothing specific. Biaggi was not told that he could never return to Honda. Also, the people that worked for HRC when Biaggi was at Honda have now moved on."

Those words, and the clear enthusiasm of Fausto Gresini to sign the 36-year-old - a 13 times 500cc/MotoGP race winner and triple championship runner-up - provided hope that the Roman could ride a Bridgestone-shod RC212V alongside rookie Alex de Angelis in 2008...

...but HRC managing director Kosuke Yasutake is far less enthusiastic - the Japanese stating that Biaggi 'is not suited to Honda' and that the company is committed to young riders.

"We don't stop our satellite teams choosing riders, but my opinion is that Biaggi is not suited to Honda and for this reason we ended our relationship with him. Honda has also made a clear decision to concentrate on young riders," he said. "Honda finished with Biaggi in 2005 and we will continue to concentrate on young riders."

Barring a u-turn, Biaggi is thus left with few obvious options in either WSBK or MotoGP. Max's Italian fanbase could help secure a Ducati seat, but Ducati's factory WSBK line-up is already complete and only the second d'Antin seat remains unoccupied in MotoGP... unless Team KR can secure Bologna machinery for 2008.

The second d'Antin seat is expected to go to Toni Elias, with Shinya Nakano replacing Elias at Honda Gresini.