There’s no dressing it up: 2019 has been the toughest in Jorge Lorenzo’s decorated 18-year career in the grand prix paddock. A series of injuries and crashes coupled with an inability to meld with Honda’s 2019 RC213V have left the 32-year old 19th in the championship, with just 25 points to his name.

Last month’s Australian Grand Prix represented a nadir; there, the Majorcan struggled to a last place finish 66 seconds behind race winner and team-mate Marc Marquez. “I struggled in every way, physically, in terms of speed, and confidence,” he said after the race.

Earlier that weekend, sat down with Lorenzo soon after a bizarre rumour had surfaced regarding him immediately announcing his retirement from the sport. That was immediately quashed but encapsulated the near constant stream of speculation regarding his future in recent months.

Here the five-time world champion talks about the difficulties he had endured since joining Repsol Honda, dealing with the constant speculation since his return from injury and whether Assen was the most serious crash of his career.
The Japanese Grand Prix was your 200th race in MotoGP. When you were a 15-year old starting out at the Spanish Grand Prix in 2002, could you have imagined a career this long?

Jorge Lorenzo:
Well, obviously you dream big. If you have to dream, it’s better to dream big. My dream has always been to be world champion. But one thing is to dream and to imagine; another thing is to reach. A lot of people can dream, but the percentage is much, much less for the people who finally get what they dream. I am of course one of these people. I feel very grateful for that. I feel lucky. I work very hard. I work so hard, but also I feel lucky in my career to always be in good teams with good opportunities. So it was a combination of these factors – hard work, but also probably luck. That is important, too.
Results have not been as you expected this year. What percentage is down to injury and what percentage is because of the bike being difficult for you to ride?

Jorge Lorenzo:
Well, I was improving every race, getting more knowledge of the bike and introducing some new parts that slightly improved my performance. So at Le Mans, I could finish eleventh, just 14 seconds from the winner. At Montmeló I was quite fast in the first few laps. I was in the front group. But then I crashed in the race. I crashed in the test with a big crash. I was very lucky not to be seriously injured, because the crash was very, very nasty. But there in the Monday test at Montmeló, something changed. I got some little fracture, already there in my back.

When I arrived at Assen I was already injured, so when I entered the gravel there was big rolling, a big impact and I got badly injured in my back. From there on, this for sure has stopped my progression. For two months I almost didn’t make any sport. My fitness got worse very quickly.

I still suffer from this back problem when I sleep [and] after every session. It’s getting better. Every week I feel slightly better, but still I’m suffering from it. If every time you push you have a big crash, your confidence on the bike is not the same. So I think it’s a combination of things. In MotoGP, if you are not 100% [fit] and you are not safe 100%, it’s very difficult to be competitive. I think this is my biggest issue at this moment.
Would you say that your crash at Assen is the one that has had the biggest consequence in your career? What I mean is, has it affected you more than any other crash you’ve had? I imagine fracturing two vertebrae makes you think about the bigger picture…

Jorge Lorenzo:
Yeah, exactly. I’ve had big injuries and important injuries, like the finger, actually here [at Phillip Island] in 2011. Or a lot of times the collarbone, the ankles. Many injuries. But when you are speaking about the back, it’s something more serious. I was a bit shocked. But everything is healed by time. Time passes and you forget the bad things. So I’m still a little bit in this process of regaining confidence on the bike, seeing that if I keep riding and understanding what is the limit of this bike after the crash, and also my condition is improving. It’s a long process, but I think I’m getting out of this little by little.
How do you personally deal with getting out of this process? Do you look at other difficult moments in your career and analysing how you were able to come back to win again?

Jorge Lorenzo:
It’s hard because this injury is very tough. It takes very long to heal. But I wasn’t able to stop because we have race, race, race, race. Every time I do a race, I am after the race two days with pain on my back. Then I recover and I again have to race the next one. So I didn’t have one or two months of totally recovery. This I think is what I need at the end of the season.
Have you had conversations with Honda about next year’s bike? What steps are they taking to make sure that this bike is a better bike for you, not just for Marquez?

Jorge Lorenzo:
Well, you have to ask them this question because I don’t know exactly what they are doing in the factory. I think they have my comments, my feeling on the bike. They know exactly what I feel and what I think they should do or what is the main priority. But one thing is to know what you have to do and another thing is to actually do it and put it on the track and [to see] what you put on the track really works.
You went to Honda’s factory after Mugello. We don’t hear of this happening so much. Was that your request, to go there to speak to the technicians directly? Or was it Honda’s idea?

Jorge Lorenzo:
When I became a Honda rider, I had some requests, some particular requests. One of them was the ergonomics of the bike. Because we couldn’t make it completely perfect or 100% for me, the shape and everything. We tried to modify these ergonomics things, but I didn’t feel completely good. We thought that the best thing was to fly directly to Japan and to take measurements and to spend time there to be sure we did the maximum. So apart from the ergonomics, we spoke about some different things on the bike, some different areas to improve in the future. But mainly I went there to improve the ergonomics and to be sure we were doing the best we could do.
Is it frustrating when you come to a track and, like today, there are rumors in the press that you’re going to announce your retirement when this isn’t the case? Is it difficult to concentrate on the job when there’s all this talk away from the track?

Jorge Lorenzo:
Well, people looking at my results they imagine things and they suppose things. But from this to be sure, there are big differences. As you can see today, I was completely surprised about what they created, but I guess it’s part of the job to be a journalist, for some of them.
At the end of next year all the contracts are up. Are you still thinking that in 2021 you’re going to be in MotoGP? Or are you taking it season by season at this point?

Jorge Lorenzo:
You cannot think about getting the apple when the tree is not already in the ground. Everything comes into the right time. I guess if the results will improve a lot and Honda will be happy and I will be happy, so the thing is to renew the contract. This happens in the case of everyone. If it’s not like this, both parts will take different directions. It’s logical in this sport. But you cannot think about what is going to happen in three, five, or seven months. It’s not worth it. Especially when I am struggling to get very good results. So I have to focus to try to do much better with the Honda, and this is what I try.
Last year in an interview you told me one of your big motivations was to join a select band of riders to win a premier class race with three different manufacturers.

Jorge Lorenzo:
Today that looks really far, but it's a possibility.
Considering what has happened this year, would you consider achieving this goal the biggest challenge of your career?

Jorge Lorenzo:
It’s tough. Now it’s very tough. If I imagine myself winning a race, it’s very tough to imagine. But to do that, I must be much, much closer to the fastest guy. At the moment, it’s not possible. Yeah, in MotoGP everything can happen. You can have a strange race. You can be lucky sometimes, but I don’t want to win a race by being lucky or by taking profit of a strange condition. I want to win a race because I deserve it and I am fast enough to beat everyone.