Marc Marquez's sensational 16-race run of qualifying on the front of the MotoGP grid came to an end at Mugello, with the Catalan complaining of stability and acceleration issues around the 3.2-mile Tuscan track.
Barcelona, 2015 – some 17 races ago – was the last time Marquez started a race behind the front three, and the 23-year old feels the Honda is currently too difficult to control on the exit of Mugello's fast, sweeping corners to live with the Movistar Yamahas, Andrea Iannone's factory Ducati and Maverick Viñales' Suzuki.
“The Ducati on the straight is really fast but here we are also losing to Yamaha and Suzuki in the small accelerations,” said Marquez, who qualified fourth. “OK, here that is not as demanding as Le Mans, they are small ones [straights]. But with one tenth here, one tenth there, in the end we are losing a lot. We cannot use all the torque because of the stability on the rear.
“On the other side I feel quite good in the change of direction. We will see tomorrow. In FP4 I feel not so good with the bike. Then in the qualifying and practice we change the set-up and it was better. We need to wait until tomorrow to see how our level will be.
“The electronics we are working really hard. Honestly we are still not perfect. We need to improve there, the stability. It looks like it's not such a stable bike. At the top is Ducati. It is very stable. Then Yamaha. Suzuki is more unstable but they can keep pushing.”
It was notable how Honda struggled with the new Magneti Marelli software through the off-season, but Marquez's back-to-back victories in Argentina and Texas suggested they had overcome the worst moment.
Yet both Repsol Honda riders have spoken of the need to refine the current system in Mugello, as it is proving difficult to exit corners smoothly.
“The electronics we are working really hard. Honestly we are still not perfect. We need to improve there, the stability. It looks like it's not such a stable bike. At the top is Ducati. It is very stable. Then Yamaha. Suzuki is more unstable but they can keep pushing.
“We are not able to adjust this in these kind of problems. They are working hard and getting closer and closer. Yesterday we were losing and the bike was really nervous. Now we try to find the best compromise.
“We have the power. Last year we were able to control the power with the electronics. The bike was much more stable and the slide was nicer. Now with these electronics I cannot manage this power so we need to reduce it but the power is there. The thing is that we cannot use it for some reason.”
Asked to clarify the reason why he can't use all of Honda's available power, Marquez added, “For example in Le Mans we cannot use the power for the wheelie.
“The wheelie stops us and we need to reduced the power for the wheelie. Here we have the wheelie but the worst problem is the stability on the exit. This stability, if we want to gain it, the electronics cannot fix. We need to reduce the power to be smoother.”
Along with saying it seemed as though Valentino Rossi and Viñales “speak and organise” a qualifying strategy between them, Marquez foresees an incredibly competitive race on Sunday, as he seeks to climb the podium after a costly crash iN Le Mans.
“I tried to make a good lap alone, which I think was the best thing for the race. In the end we will see tomorrow but also Valentino, alone has a good rhythm. Viñales alone has a good rhythm, Lorenzo, Iannone… It will be tough to be on the podium but we will try.”