Marquez interview: I want at least one more MotoGP title fight
After so many years of being unstoppable, Marc Marquez has had a tough few seasons.
Injury after injury has left the six-time MotoGP champion struggling not just to find his way back to winning ways, but for his entire career, thanks to a succession of physical issues that have kept him out of top form since July 2020.
But, finally on the verge of a full recovery just as the 2022 season kicks off, the Repsol Honda rider tells The Race in an exclusive interview that one thing has remained: his passion to win. Except now there’s just the slightest hint of self-doubt.
It’s been a long time since he’s been able to win, mind you, at least when it comes to the big prize he dreams of more than any other: the world championship.
Winning six of seven premier class titles from his rookie season in 2013 until the last full season he participated in, it’s fair to say he’s gotten pretty used to the idea of being the best at the world – which is sure to do it stings even more than it has now been two years, four months and 22 days since he last lifted two-wheeled racing’s greatest trophy.
And while team boss Alberto Puig recently insisted the last two years would have easily added to his driver’s silverware had he been fit to compete, Marquez struggles to talk about what could have been. But the desire to win again is a big part of the motivation that has sustained him over the past two tough years.
“You never know,” he told The Race when asked about Puig’s comment. “I never like to talk about if, if. With a lot of things in the past, you never know.
“But it’s true that in 2020 I was coming off a very good year and in general I felt really good and the bike was running very well.
“Even last year, the bike of last year was a bike to win a title and I said that in some interviews. The tools were there, but you never know. But the past is the past.
“We made a few mistakes but we used that experience and now it’s time to…maybe not this year, you never know, but the intention is that it’s time to come back [to the front] This year.
“But I know it will be a slow progression and I won’t be ready, fully fit, full attack from the first race.”
The reason for this slight hint of self-doubt is quite apparent. The winter between last season and this one was supposed to be all about physical recovery, rebuilding left right shoulder strength weakened by the horrific arm fracture and the botched recovery saga that has started in Jerez almost two years ago.
Instead, it turned into another injury hell as a harmless training accident led to Marquez hitting his head and bringing back the double vision that once almost cost him his career in 2011.
And, with symptoms far removed from the pain he suffered from the broken arm, Marquez admits the hardest part of recovery wasn’t the physical side of things, especially since it happened at the end of a long series of damaged joints and pain. .
“Of course, that last injury was about the whole mental side, everything,” he explains.
“It wasn’t physically difficult because it was double vision, but it was okay. I mean no pain, nothing. Zero. But you have a double vision.
“But the mental side was very, very hard too. I mean, imagine, every time you open your eyes, you see double. When you have a bone injury, you know if you don’t move, you don’t feel any pain.
“But double vision is like every time you open your eyes, even trying to disconnect while watching TV: double vision.
“I started with the left shoulder [injury]. OK, so I got to the championship [in 2018], then you say to yourself ‘OK all that I suffer gives me something’. Then the right shoulder. You suffer but then you gain a certain victory.
“Now the vision, you still suffer. It’s like you’re going down, down, down.
“But in the end, I never forgot what my goal is. And my goal is to try to fight for the championship at least once and I think we’re on track. I’m still 28 so we have time.
Helping that in 2022 is a Honda RC213V that so far appears to be much more rider-friendly than anything Marquez has ridden in the past.
Honda has made a conscious effort in his absence to move away from the front-tire centric machine it had built around him and prepare a radically new bike that favors the styling of others more (including teammate Pol Espargaro). ).
After trying the new direction, Marquez is certainly not crazy about the change.
“No, I’m not disappointed,” he says. “I’m on the other side. I am grateful to Honda because they made a big effort to change the bike and in Sepang, Malaysia I told them that I wanted to start with my current bike and then move on to this one. And then when I trade, I immediately understand that the potential is more.
“Now it’s about taking advantage of it, understanding how to take advantage of this potential.
“I am grateful to Honda. They work really hard and they made a bike with feedback from all the riders. I mean like every year, but when you don’t have any driver winning the title, you know.
“If you complain about the bike but you win, it’s still very difficult to make a big change.
“But if you complain about the bike and you don’t win, then they made a big effort to make a big change.
“So I think it’s a very good bike but we have to understand in different circuits. But Malaysia for me was very good. In a lap which was one of my weak points last year, we will see on other circuits, but ‘boom’ I’m coming and we’ll see.
There’s one downside to the new Honda so far: its lack of time on it. Having missed end-of-season testing last year due to his head injury, he lacks time on the new package to not only get the most out of it, but also to adapt to a whole new style – and it is not yet clear how long the process will take when the season kicks off this week in Qatar.
“At the moment, I’m not adapting,” he concedes. “I still don’t adapt.
“It’s true that all the other Honda riders have already ridden this bike in Jerez [last winter] and they are already bringing this bike to their riding style.
“It’s a bigger bike and I don’t feel comfortable but when I push the lap time comes. And I’m a rider who can do a lap without feeling, without my best feelings on the bike.
“But I know that during a season you have to understand the bike and you have to understand what you need each time.
“Maybe during the races we will make mistakes in strategy, how to find the best of the bike, but this is a bike where the potential is there.
And, thanks to the nature of the championship, he also has time to get up to speed. It’s an oft-repeated adage in the MotoGP paddock that the season doesn’t really start until it arrives in Europe, despite having more races than ever this year ahead of the first European race in Portimao at the end of April.
But, with time until then to learn the ropes (and with one of his favorite overseas races: Austin’s Circuit of the Americas), he’s convinced he will have no pressure when the lights go out on Sunday at the Losail International Circuit.
“In April, I have to be ready,” insists Marquez. “If you want to fight for the championship, at the end of April, you may already start to understand if you can fight in 2022 for the championship, or if your expectations were too high. That’s how the wait for me and for all the drivers of the whole grid.
“If you ask everyone, it’s always ‘oh I’m very happy, we work a lot, blah, blah, blah. But before the season starts, everyone is happy to test and before the season starts, everyone wants to fight for the title. So let’s see.
“You understand at the end of April, May, fifth race or sixth race, you already see if you are 20 points from the leader, 100 or you are leading the championship.
So what are the chances of Marquez leading the league when that happens? Well, despite the rider confidence that even he admits is common, he also admits that at the moment the more competitive than ever nature of MotoGP means it’s hard to suggest what’s next.
Hinting at not starting the season for perhaps the first time since 2014 as heavy favourite, he’s instead more than happy to list the guys who will be at the end – and keep his bets on himself for the moment.
“I think Fabio [Quartararo] and Peco [Bagnaia] are the guys that if you want to bet a little,” he said, “I’m going to put some money on these two guys. They seem like the safest bet, but of course, you never know.
“You could say that the Suzuki riders in Malaysia were impressive. If you see the pace of the Aprilia riders in Malaysia, it was impressive.
“If you see [Enea] Bastianini, he was impressive, if you see [Jorge] Martin – I mean, you don’t know.
“Now it’s a MotoGP where everything is more equal and on 10 motos or even 12 you can win a title. That’s something very nice for sure.