The Repsol Honda star, returning to action after suffering his latest episode of diplopia following the huge Mandalika highside, qualified just ninth on the grid at a circuit where he claimed seven poles in a row from 2013-2019.

"I didn't believe in myself in the qualifying. It's easy," Marquez said. "I mean all weekend I worked very well and nice on my rhythm and my pace, but then in the qualifying I went out, there was some traffic, then I didn’t want to push. And then I didn’t believe in me. It was only my mistake.

"On the second tyre we had some issues and for that I was not able to push as I want. Also I got confused and thought I had one more lap. If you believe in yourself… being on the front row was not possible, but the second row was my position.

"I’m coming from one of my worst weekends in the MotoGP class and the biggest highside. It is normal to have some doubts in myself but I am trying to get confidence and in FP4 I rode well.

"In qualifying, when I put new tyres, I didn’t feel it and I was a bit scared. I could not push as I want.

"Lucky, we start ninth because it was my worst lap but it will be difficult starting from there tomorrow and to overtake the Ducati riders especially, but the race is long, so let’s see."

Marc Marquez: 'I cannot be the favourite' - but rivals disagree

Despite the subdued qualifying, Marquez's COTA record combined with a strong second fastest performance in final practice, means he is still tipped as a firm pre-race favourite by his rivals.

"For me the favourites are Marc and Bastianini. They had really strong pace," said reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo, who starts alongside Bastianini in sixth.

"No-one's mentioned the king of COTA. He'll be there," said second on the grid Jack Miller, whose factory Ducati team-mate Francesco Bagnaia agreed: "Marc will be very fast."

But Marquez, whose only COTA defeat to date came when he fell while leading in 2019, insisted: "I cannot be the favourite. If you check, I did a very strange weekend but it was the only way to survive, I just pushed for single fast laps yesterday and this morning [to save energy].

"I did a normal practice in FP4; that’s where I showed a bit and tried to understand my pace. [But] starting in ninth I cannot be the favourite. I think Bagnaia, Quartararo and Bastianini; these three have a good pace.

"A lot depends on the start and the first lap," Marquez added. "If the start is good and you can get to 6-7th position then this is [one kind] of race. If you are 10th-11th then it is another race.

"We will see, but you need to take the risk. I am here to compete. In Qatar I finished 5th but I took some risks in the beginning. I will do the same here. I believe it will be a strange race. It looks like it will be very windy."

Marquez is yet to feel comfortable on the all-new RC213V, designed to generate more rear grip, but is making progress.

"Today we started in a direction that I like and we keep improving, improving…but not enough," he said.

"It looks like we need too much track to turn the bike and to use the rear grip. It is not the Honda DNA.

"Honda DNA is always a ‘V’ style and pushing, turning in a short time and pick up. It looks like today we start to ride how I would like but still we are far."

Takaaki Nakagami: 'Game over' for race pace, 'test' tomorrow

Starting just one place behind Marquez will be LCR Honda rider Takaaki Nakagami.

While the Japanese was able to set a competitive time on new rubber, he is far from happy with the front feeling and, facing a 'game over' scenario for race pace, feels he has nothing to lose in making Sunday changes.

"At all the tracks from Qatar, Indonesia, Argentina and here in Austin, I never had a good feeling on the front," Nakagami said.

"As far as I know, general bike set-up is very similar [for all the Honda riders] but I hear that everyone complains about front feeling.

"For the race pace I have it's 'game over'. I have no confidence and I cannot ride the bike as I want. So it's time to change or test something tomorrow to hopefully get a good feeling.

"With a new tyre I can request the rear grip and the bike turns but once you have less grip on the rear, it's a nightmare. The bike doesn't turn. The lap times drop. So this is main reason I was struggling today in FP4.

"But I think we've made some progress because here in Austin I'm able to somehow have a good speed so I can give clear comments to the team [about the problem].

"That's why it's time to change or try different things and build up the bike or have more confidence in the front. Which for the future in Europe will be so important.

"So it's better to have a test tomorrow and then see the result, than not trying."

Marquez's team-mate Pol Espargaro will join Nakagami on the fourth row in 12th, with Nakagami's team-mate Alex Marquez just 23rd on the grid.

"We made some improvements, but it was a bit difficult to get the feeling again," Marquez said. "In FP4 we made a really good step and made progress for tomorrow’s race and the feeling was coming back.

"In qualifying I had a crash on my first run when I was going quite fast and I had problems when I put on the new tyre, I suffered a lot with the front and I could not handle it with my riding style.

"For the race we need to take the opportunity to build up my confidence again and feel good on the bike."