Marc Marquez isn't sure if he can hang on to the Yamahas of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo in Sunday's Spanish MotoGP.
But few doubt that the Repsol Honda star, who has qualified on the outside of the front row, will do all he can to claim a third win in a row.
The only Honda rider in the top six, Marquez was on target to whip pole away from Rossi on his final attack, but lost out in the fast right-handers at the end of the lap. Nevertheless, he was only 0.155s from Rossi and 0.033s behind Lorenzo.
“Very happy with my qualifying practice, because I already know before qualifying that it will be difficult in one lap to beat both Yamaha riders,” Marquez said. “And I didn't expect to be so close. But from FP4 to the qualifying we changed the set up.
“For this reason, I changed strategy on the qualifying: Normally I go out and just do one really fast lap. But I tried to do it in another way, tried to keep the rhythm, fast laps, consistently, and in a row.
“So I was able to do it, so I'm happy for this, and let's see tomorrow if I'm able to follow both Yamaha riders, which looks like here they are really strong. But I work with a used tyre in practice, and I feel good, so we will see. Try to do a great start, and try to follow
Quizzed on the fact that he is once again the only Honda up front, Marquez replied:
“It's difficult, especially because we know Dani [seventh] was always very strong here. We know that we don't have an easy bike, but Honda is working really hard, and also my team. For example, in FP4, I started with one bike, on the second run, I changed the bike with another set up. Then for the qualifying, I changed the bike for another set up.
“So we are still looking to find the great set up in this kind of tracks, because in the preseason, we were always at long tracks, wide, and here the [weight] transfer is much bigger.
“But we must find a compromise on the stability, and then on the acceleration. It's
difficult, but the most important is that I feel good. And even like this, when I know that we can improve in many areas, and we have some things to try on Monday, we are still close to the Yamaha riders, so I'm happy with this.”
Taking everything into account, not least that he holds the title lead, will Marquez be willing to settle for a podium?
“Of course, we will try to win, but in the end, we know that this circuit, maybe for my riding style, maybe for the character of the bike is not one of the best ones. We saw that we are struggling more than Austin and Argentina, but anyway, we are there,” said Marquez, runner-up to Lorenzo at Jerez last season, while riding with an injured hand.
“So this is really positive for us. Of course we are pushing at 100% to be there. But we are happy, because I expect I would be struggling more, and we are really close to Valentino and Jorge. If I can arrive in the last laps with these two riders, for me it will be already a great result.”
Marquez starts Sunday's race with a 21-point lead over round one winner Lorenzo and 33-point advantage over Rossi.