Marc Marquez says the intense pressure he felt to reclaim the MotoGP World Championship this year weighed heavily on his shoulders in the first half of the season.
Marquez was struggling to get the most from his Repsol Honda after the switch to Michelin tyres and a new control ECU.
The 23-year-old admits that the fun went out of MotoGP for a while but with the support of his team, Marquez worked through the issues and soon rediscovered the winning feeling to resurrect a championship challenge.
“Every year is really hard and every year you do your maximum, but especially this year the pressure that I felt, especially in the beginning of the season was really high. Last year we did a few mistakes and I don't like to finish the championship like last year,” he said.
“This championship was hard and I feel more pressure, but also more motivation. This combination kept me really focused and concentrated and from Thursday to the race I was just focused on the bike and focused on my team and this was the key.
“In 2013 I didn't feel the pressure but this championship I cannot explain the pressure – it is something that I maybe didn't understand before this year. I felt it this year and even my team said sometimes, 'Marc, smile – you are not the same Marc and you must enjoy'.
“Sometimes I forgot to enjoy because the pressure is so high but the key is to enjoy, especially when I arrived with the first and second victories and then this pressure cooled down,” added Marquez.
“The team was a big help this year and I have to say the dinner times, lunch times with them, always you forget the pressure and just concentrate with your team. One important thing is that I forget the other riders because it is also easy to be confused or be not in your job.”
Marquez says he learned to be more calculated in his approach to the championship this year, opting to find the limit of the RCV in practice before treading more carefully in the races.
“This championship is really important because in 2013 and 2014 I didn't expect, but okay I win. Maybe a real champion is when you can take the pressure and last year I learn that maybe the approach of the races, the consistent, is very important too.
“But I learned and I tried to use this year; of course you must take the risks but this year I was a really cautious in the races. I crashed many times in the practice and I tried to find the limit always in the practice and then in the race, feel where was my limit and try to keep the position.”
With a healthy advantage of 52 points heading into the Japanese Grand Prix, Marquez says he was unusually relaxed prior to the start of the race because he didn't expect to wrap up the title until at least the next round at Phillip Island in Australia.
“I felt normal today and I did the breakfast at the same time, went to the toilet at the same time – always I do the same. Normally when you are more nervous you go on the toilet more times! I kept quiet and I felt relaxed,” he said.
“When I was riding and there remained five laps or six laps, I started thinking, 'okay, in Australia I need to finish seventh or eighth to be world champion. Then when I saw Lorenzo out, everything became crazy in my head.
“I did a few mistakes but the key point is that in the beginning of the race I was really quiet. Then when Valentino overtook me three or four times, he braked too deep and went wide, so I didn't want this battle and I said I need to go. I overtook him and I pushed for five or six laps and then it was enough because he did the mistake and I tried to manage the difference to Jorge,” Marquez added.
“The good thing is that when you arrive with your team and you see some of them were crying it is amazing. It looks like the best party is when you don't expect, so we will see. We will start and celebrate in the box, then some beer and we will see where we finish!”
Marquez has now won three MotoGP world titles in four years and has become the youngest rider to win five world crowns following his championship successes in the 125 and Moto2 classes in 2010 and 2012.