With the RCV’s weaknesses made clear by Marquez’s injuries since 2020, Honda radically revamped this year’s machine to try and enhance rear grip.

Marc Marquez described the bike as "so different from previous years, it's almost like I changed manufacturer".

The initial results, fast in winter testing and a podium with Pol Espargaro in Qatar, were highly promising, but such form proved the exception rather than the norm.

“It's difficult to understand because the bike we are using now is the bike that was working perfectly in Qatar and the pre-season,” Espargaro had said after ninth place at the opening European round in Portimao.

“In the pre-season we were the fastest over one lap, but also we were the fastest in rhythm, by far. So we didn’t change the bike because the bike was amazing. We just added some small details, that are not producing this big change and now we are suffering.

“The feelings of everyone were good [in the pre-season] apart from some small problems in the front, but nobody was complaining about the rear. Now we have serious problems and we don’t know how to solve them.

“Marc started in Malaysia [tests] with the old [2021 bike] then he jumped to the new one and for him clearly the new one was much faster. So he chose this bike as well as us.”

Things would get even worse for Espargaro, who hasn’t finished in the top ten since Portimao, while Marquez - after missing the middle stages of the season due to a fourth round of arm surgery - finally took a podium at Phillip Island.

Marquez: ‘Lap time better, riding style worse’

While Marquez agrees that he was faster on the 2022 bike during back-to-back running in the winter - with the caveat of ‘be careful because the pre-season has a lot of rubber on track' - almost ten months later he still describes it as a bike that ‘makes me a bit confused’, since it is hard to predict how it will perform from track to track.

Some might assume Marquez would simply like to step back to the kind of ‘front-end’ friendly bike that worked so spectacularly for him in the past, but the eight-time world champion is open-minded enough to know that times have changed:

“I want a winning bike. But maybe the Marquez-style bike, the older style of the bike, would not work now… Before the bikes were very low and short, now they are becoming big [long] and tall.”

Returning to Sepang for this past weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix, Marquez explained how he is seeking to merge the strengths of the temperamental 2022 machine with the comfort he felt on the previous models.

“It’s more the character of the bike. This year it changed a lot and for my riding style I believe it's worse,” he said. “But it's true that for the performance, for the lap time, this 2022 bike was better [than the 2021].

“I feel more uncomfortable, but the lap time was coming, so for that reason we decided to choose this way.

“Now we need to understand because still I feel like - in Phillip Island I did a good race, but the bike was shaking too much and doing some things that make the bike more difficult to ride.”

The 29-year-old, who dropped from the front row to seventh in the Malaysian MotoGP race, added:

“You always want more torque and more turning, but one of the main things or what we are trying to understand is the way to ride the bike.

“It feels like a heavy bike. But we need to understand why I feel all that inertia on the bike and it is what I would like to improve.

“Because in circuits where you don’t have a lot of change of direction, a lot of stopping, you can manage it more or less. Like Phillip Island. Or Qatar.

“But as soon you need to stop the bike a lot on the [lean] angle, that is where I'm struggling more.”

‘You cannot do anything in low grip’

While engine modifications are not allowed during the season, Marquez and Honda have been trying various chassis (including the aluminium Kalex swingarm) and aerodynamic changes.

“It’s more or less a similar bike [from the pre-season], the only changes are the aerodynamics and the swingarm. But the swingarm is not a big difference. For example, in Thailand FP1 I was fastest using the carbon one,” Marquez said.

“We need to understand the way [forward] because this is a bike that as soon as we have low grip, which normally is my strong point, you cannot do anything with this bike.”

‘We need to be consistent, like Ducati’

“I always say we need to find a bike that over a championship can be consistent in all tracks. Like Ducati did,” Marquez added.

“In the past they were very strong in some tracks and struggling a lot in other ones. But now they’re constant and fast on all tracks.

“So we need to find a compromise, we are working on it and Honda is working a lot on this.”

Marquez, who expects a better weekend at the anti-clockwise Valencia finale, is still unsure if he will receive a full 2023 bike to try at the post-race test.

That test will also see ex-Suzuki MotoGP riders Joan Mir and Alex Rins give HRC their first impressions of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the RCV.