Marc Marquez: I want a winning bike, future ‘depends on Honda’

Wednesday’s news that Marc Marquez has been cleared to ‘intensify his training and assess the condition of his arm on a motorcycle’ suggests a MotoGP return is not far away.

Dr. Sanchez Sotelo of the Mayo Clinic, where Marquez underwent a fourth right-arm operation in early June, reported that the Spaniard “has regained a great arc of motion”, “recovered well from a muscular perspective” and has “complete bone union.”

The extent of the mobility boost in MotoGP terms won’t be clear until Marquez rides a bike, with the Misano test (September 6-7) still on the cards, but the evidence so far suggests Marquez will be more comfortable than at any time since the initial fracture in July 2020.

That in turn puts the spotlight back on Honda to deliver a winning package for Marquez in 2023.

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Honda currently sits sixth and last in the constructors’ standings with just a single podium, by Pol Espargaro, in the Qatar opener.

The RCV has only taken one top ten finish since Marquez stepped away for surgery and, despite missing 7 of the 13 rounds this season, he remains their highest ranked rider, in just 15th.

Speaking to DAZN, Marquez pledged his loyalty to Honda but also warned the RC213V needs to become a ‘winning package’ once again.

"My future depends on Honda,” Marquez said. “I have two more years on my contract. Honda is Honda, the brand of my dreams and I’m very grateful to them, but as long as I compete and think I have the level, I want a winning project. Otherwise... "

And what might Marc be thinking, some have speculated, if younger brother Alex - whose form, style and speed he knows better than any other rider - makes a big jump in performance after switching from Honda to Ducati next season?

Marquez, braking, Catalunya MotoGP
Marquez, braking, Catalunya MotoGP

‘Maybe the older-style Marquez bike would not work now’

Speaking at the Red Bull Ring last weekend, Marc Marquez insisted he’s open-minded about what the Honda RC213V needs to become and that it’s not as simple as turning the clock back to what worked so spectacularly for him in the past.

“I want a winning bike. But maybe the Marquez-style bike, the older style of the bike [until] last year or two years ago, would not work now because the category is changing," he said.

“Before the bikes were very low and short, and now they are becoming big [long] and tall.

“So we need to understand. They [Honda] need to understand. I'm not the engineer.

“I'm just saying [to them] which is our weak point, where I struggle more and where we are losing compared to other bikes.

“But they [Honda] know the numbers and they are the engineers and I believe in my engineers. If they say that they are convinced about some change, I will believe in them.”

Nonetheless, the task facing Honda for 2023 is ‘big’.

“The latest [developments] on the bike I didn't try, but last time I rode in Mugello it was a difficult, difficult bike, that it was so difficult to take the profit of the bike.

“And the problem was big. It was not a small problem. It was not ‘we are losing [just] here’. No, it was a big problem.”

Marc Marquez, Italian MotoGP race, 29 May
Marc Marquez, Italian MotoGP race, 29 May

Marquez and Honda won six out of the seven world championships between 2013 and 2019, but the key statistic is that no other Honda rider has won a MotoGP race since Cal Crutchlow in early 2018.

That didn’t matter while Marquez was dominating, the Spaniard effectively handing Honda not only the riders’ crown but also the teams’ and constructors’ titles in 2019, but the Jerez 2020 arm fracture changed everything.

Rather than returning to continue his winning ways, Marquez has been dogged by healing problems ever since, plus two more episodes of diplopia.

Dipping in and out of racing also meant Marquez was unable to steer development of the 2021 and 2022 bikes, forcing Honda to put their faith in feedback from the other riders.

One theory went that, if the RCV could be tuned to work better for the others, it would also be easier for Marquez. But it didn’t work out that way. The quest for more rear grip resulted in a heavily-revised 2022 machine that, after initial promise, it has proven problematic for all – including Marquez.

What does Honda need to do to climb out of its current hole?

“For me, the most important thing now is not on the bike, it's more in the project, in the coordination area,” Marquez said. “All the information inside the team needs to flow in a good way, in all areas.”

Marquez added: “I don't want to say that Honda needs to work like the Europeans, because in the end the Japanese style also worked a lot during these last years and we won many titles in the last 10 years.

“But it's true that in the end the world is changing, the championship is changing and it's like when young riders arrive and the riding style is changing. You need to try to investigate, find a way to be the best and to improve. And in that part Honda is working very hard.

“But it's important in a difficult moment not to panic. The panic will be the worst enemy now. So the most important is to try to analyse the situation, which they are doing well.

“I fully believe in them. I had the operation on the arm to come back on the top with Honda. This is my target but it's true that to achieve this target everybody needs work in the same way.”

Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro MotoGP race, Portuguese MotoGP. 24 April
Marc Marquez, Pol Espargaro MotoGP race, Portuguese MotoGP. 24 April

Stressing that as a rider, rather than an engineer, he can’t ask for specific technical changes, Marquez explained:

“We are seeing that the European teams are working in a different way,” he said. “When I say change the team, it’s the concept, the coordination.

“I'm not the guy to say ‘this is the way’, because Honda is the brand that won more titles in the world and I'm here with Honda because I believe in them and I believe that I can come [back] to the top with them.

“But it's true that they need to understand the way to organise well, because every year we have more and more races, less testing and the work at the factory becomes more and more important than at the circuit.

“But the circuit [work] needs to be working together with the factory.”

There will be even less time for a race team to work on bike development during MotoGP weekends next season, with a Saturday Sprint race instead of a free practice session.

Marquez will also have a new team-mate next season with Pol Espargaro returning to KTM and set to be replaced by Suzuki’s 2020 world champion Joan Mir.

"My goal, when a team-mate comes, is to beat him," Marquez told DAZN. "I don't care if he is a rookie or a world champion like Mir. I want it to be one side of the box or the other, both bikes to win, as it was in 2013 when I came [to MotoGP alongside Dani Pedrosa]."

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