Pol Espargaro’s Repsol Honda woes continued on Sunday after finishing a frustrated 16th in the AustrianGP despite claiming pole and hunting for the win at Spielberg last season with KTM.
A ‘miscommunication’ between himself and the team saw Espargaro enter pitlane for the wet set-up RC213V on the final lap, from eighth and destroying any hopes of a points scoring position - with the rider refusing to comment further on that particular situation.
The exasperated Catalan’s day was made even worse by the fact his teammate Marc Marquez - who was at one point challenging for the victory in the 28-lap rain-hit race - managed to pit for the bike-swap gamble, return to action, fall at turn one, remount and still finish one place ahead of his 2021 colleague.
“Yeah, well, what happened today is the same thing that is happening till now,” Espargaro commented with his frustrations clear to see.
“I have no rear grip, I'm spinning on the straight, I do not accelerate, I cannot brake late, I cannot stop the bike in the place I would like. I'm slow. I was struggling with the hard front to turn and that's it,” the resigned 30-year-old continued on Sunday evening.
“I did the pole position last year and I was fighting for the victory in both races. To be so far back on the grid now and with the feelings I remember here, it's painful.
“Obviously everyone is working hard but the results are not coming, races are going and my frustration is growing because I cannot ride as I would like. I know Honda is trying, we all are trying here and we will not surrender, but it's a little bit painful, because this place I like and this place I'm fast.”
The Andorran-resident appears to be at a loss with what to try next to turn the situation around, having had such high hopes for his future when joining the Honda firm from KTM at the start of the season.
“I have no idea, we've been trying different stuff on the bike, like different settings on the bike since Qatar,” he admitted before attempting to explain further.
“Sometimes we are better, it depends on the circuit, sometimes we are worse but definitely we are not where we want to be. I'm struggling a lot every weekend and I don't know what to do.
“It was a tricky weekend, well tricky race, because the weekend was not going so bad until the race. I don't know exactly what happened on the race that I lose so much the feelings and I'm so slow, because on the practices we were fast.
“I was on a '24 low this morning, even yesterday, FP4 I was riding fast in that '24-low but then on the race I am super, super slow, even sometimes one-second slower, and I don't know. I cannot stop the bike, I cannot use the rear brake, I cannot turn as fast as I would like. Then if you add the rainy conditions, then everything feels a little bit worse and, honestly, it's tough. It's tough because when you are in that situation is difficult to get out, but we are trying hard, I will keep working to turn the situation, as Honda is doing. I will keep working to improve the situation but it's not easy.
“I used the medium rear because it was the tyre we were working during all the weekend and obviously it didn't work, but I don't know if using the soft would work better. Our grip is really, really bad always and we are trying to figure it out, how to use it.
“My riding style is based on the rear grip, especially on the entry by using the rear brake, and I cannot apply anything I'm used to doing and this is hard. Is difficult because it's like learning again how to do everything and is a little bit painful but it's like this. We will need to turn it in the next race in Silverstone,” he concluded, ever-hopeful.