New MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez says he learned an expensive lesson in 2015, which forced him to abandon his win at all costs mentality.
A series of mistakes proved costly last year as Marquez's attempt to win a third consecutive premier class title fell short, with Jorge Lorenzo crowned champion for Yamaha following a season-long battle with team-mate Valentino Rossi.
Marquez and his Repsol Honda team faced an uphill struggle following the introduction of Michelin as the MotoGP tyre supplier this year along with new rules for a spec-ECU, with the RCV taking less kindly to the transition.
However, he retained his belief in Honda's engineers to deliver their part of the bargain as the season progressed, while Marquez altered his own approach to racing to build a championship lead that had seemed so unlikely at the start of the campaign.
“The start of the season has been the most difficult point of this season and maybe the most difficult pre-season in my career. Step by step always we believed and I remember that I said to all my engineers, 'I believe in you, so I will change my mentality in the first races but in the second part of the season I need your help',” Marquez said.
“In the second half of the season this help arrived. They did a great job with the electronics especially, we improved the acceleration and in the end now we have a competitive bike. I feel good and we had a great test in Aragon before the race and honestly it was a difficult start. Okay, you can say to me, 'you won the title with still three races remaining' but this title was really, really difficult.
“It was like this and it was hard because to learn this, I lost a championship [in 2015], so it was an expensive price to pay to learn this approach of the races, but now we are very happy.”
Marquez – who secured his third MotoGP title in the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi – highlighted his early wins at the beginning of the season in Argentina and Texas as the moment when his championship dream suddenly seemed much more achievable.
“After these first two wins maybe it was a really important point because then when you are leading the championship, you can approach races in a different way: you can manage, you can be happy with a second or third place. But then when I lost the lead of the championship in Le Mans because I did a mistake, I said okay, we must keep quiet,” he recalled.
“In Le Mans I tried to push more than what I feel on the bike and then the rest of the championship I decided that if I feel, I will push but if I do not feel, I will not push.
“I won in Germany and then when we started the second part of the season, Austria, Brno, I finished there on the podium but sometimes also out of the podium. I started to become a little bit nervous but always my team told me, 'please, be quiet, you have a big advantage – Aragon will arrive'! I was waiting for Aragon and in the end when we arrived I said this will be the weekend to win again.
“I was really concentrated there and it was one key point but especially if the teams keeps the same mentality as you, then everything is easier.”
Although Marquez did not feel it was possible to challenge for the win at Motegi, he admitted he “pushed to the limit” from the first free practice session until morning warm-up.
“I didn't expect to fight for the victory on this weekend so for that reason, I said the title was impossible. But it's true that I did all the practice from FP1 to the warm-up in the limit: I was braking in the limit at every brake point on every lap. It was something special and then after the warm-up I said I would try to do my race and see how we will manage.
“Then the important point also is when I saw Valentino [Rossi] out, so the old style came back and I pushed for the victory. I was pushing on the maximum on the first 15 laps and then when I got three seconds advantage I tried to control.”
Marquez's win in Japan was his fifth of the season and he will now bid to add to his tally with the championship sewn up at Philip Island and Sepang before the championship finale at Valencia in November.