Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez had a difficult return to action at the StyrianGP last weekend, as he continued his journey back to MotoGP fitness.
A restarted race, change of tyres and multiple clashes with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro added to the 28-year-old’s woes. While his first taste of back-to-back races - after missing the majority of the 2020 season - provides the opportunity for further progress next-time-out.
“I am happy with the weekend,” Marquez said from the Spielberg paddock on Sunday evening.
“Our pace was good and I was riding well but I am not happy with the race. In the first race I was feeling really good and I thought ‘this is my race’. In the second, we changed tyres and already on the out-lap I could feel something strange. There was a lot of spinning and I couldn’t find any grip. I tried to cool the tyre a bit and then push again but I was one-second slower than during practice. All we could do was finish the race and try to show our true performance next weekend,” he admitted.
Discussing the double turn-one clashes with Espargaro, after aggressive starts to both races, Marquez acknowledged there was blame on both sides.
“In the first race I was optimistic when I passed Aleix, and touching was more my mistake. He went a little bit wide and just I turned in, because in that corner, it’s easy that somebody come and you lose a lot of position, so I go in, I didn’t expect to have so big contract. In the second race was his mistake. I start better than him, I was already in a good position. In the brake-point I was parallel with him, but he just released the brakes and turned in. Quartararo was inside so I had no space and we had contract but first race my mistake, second race his mistake. This is racing, it happens.”
Espargaro himself saw things in a slightly different light, but rather than lay the complaint with his rival, he called out the stewards decision not to reprimand the Honda rider.
“With Marquez, I will not blame him. I mean, there’s no meaning, Marc is Marc. Every race, he overtake like this, from the last 10 years,” the Aprilia rider explained.
“What I want to blame is the panel steward. I don’t know, maybe they were watching the last day of Olympics? It’s difficult to understand. Marquez decided the actions he do during the race, everybody is free to do whatever he wants, but the steward’s have to penalise. I mean, the action, there was no room at all. He hit me, especially the first one he hit me very strong on the arm and I was out of the track. Luckily, because there was Rins on the otherside so I could make a big mess there. In the second race the same.
“Let’s see if Race Direction will do something, but in an action like this one, I think it’s not that difficult. You see action like this, you penalise, that is why we have the rules. What makes me very angry is that we penalise when one rider may crash another one but what we have to penalise is the action, doesn’t matter the result. I mean if today we both crash, then big penalty, because nobody crash, no penalty. Why we have the panel stewards to do this?” Espargaro questioned angrily.
Away from the controversial starts, the eight-time world champion had shown his frustrations throughout the Styrian weekend, after failing to make the recovery from his ongoing injury-plight he was hoping for during the summer break.
“I’m not at my level and I already say on Friday I was quite, not angry but some kind of frustration, because I expect a bigger step from the summer break, about my physical condition, Marquez continued.
“It was not like this but anyway I accept it and then just try to concentrate. During the race I had some pain, like always, but acceptable. It didn’t increase during the race, so this was the positive thing. Is true that I was just in cruising mode, I mean I didn’t attack. I was there in my position, riding ‘25’s, that is very slow, but that was the only thing I was able to do. Was some pain during all the race but consistent was not a big problem, was not a big limitation.
“It’s true that on the grid I was eighth, and we finish eighth, but the pace during the weekend was faster. In the second race for some reason I wasn’t able to do it. I’m a rider that normally, if I have one pace in the practice I go and repeat in the race, but today was impossible. When I saw that feeling, I just finished the race - is true that in the first part of the race also I did a few mistakes. I went wide in a few corners, because when you miss the rear grip, you miss stopping on the braking, turning and acceleration, so you miss everywhere.
“We are back again in Austria and it’s the first time I will be racing at the same circuit two weekends in a row, so this will be interesting. Honestly speaking I don’t think it will change too much but we start from a very good base. Last weekend was good, apart from the restart on Sunday. I am confident we can do another good weekend,” he concluded, looking ahead to the AustrianGP.