Riding in front of his home fans at the same circuit where his injury nightmares began in July 2020, the eight-time world champion soon became embroiled in a race-long battle for the final podium place with Jack Miller and Aleix Espargaro.
The trio were nose-to-tail for lap after lap, with Marquez sandwiched menacingly in the middle.
Marquez finally launched an attack with five laps to go, neatly cutting inside Miller at Turn 5, onto the back straight. The Repsol Honda star hoped his unusual pass would mean the Australian then kept the charging Espargaro at bay.
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“I tried in Turn 5, a corner where we normally never overtake. Then my intention was to push and help to defend my position. And it's what I did, but at the last turn I made a mistake.”
But in his haste to try and escape, Marquez pushed his RCV over the limit into the final corner, then produced the kind of elbow-down save not seen from him for several years.
“A long time, two years, since I saved in that way,” smiled Marquez.
Fortunately, it was his left arm and shoulder that did the heavy lifting, rather than the weaker right side.
“When I save on the right side then it will be different, but I saved from the left and on the left side I feel okay," he added.
“But even so, I think the Spanish crowd kept me up and saved the crash! Because I was completely on the floor, both wheels were sliding, then suddenly the bike picked up!”
However Espargaro was able to pass both Marquez and Miller at that same moment, with the Aprilia rider’s superior speed then allowing him to comfortably claim the final podium position behind Francesco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo.
Although he missed out on the rostrum, fourth was still Marquez’s best result of the season and beat his pre-race prediction of fifth at best.
“I did a good race. One of my targets was fifth position today and I achieved fourth. You need to have targets you can achieve, otherwise the frustration is too high every race," Marquez said.
“We need to see this result as positive energy and another motivation.”
Marquez: Tomorrow's MotoGP test is important
Marquez now takes that positive energy into Monday’s post-race test, where HRC is sure to deliver new parts to try and resurrect the new RCV’s impressive form in winter testing.
“At the moment we are not ready to fight for the championship,” Marquez said. “There are two riders that are much faster than everybody, that is Quartararo and Pecco.
“It's true that we are getting closer and tomorrow we have an important test. We will continue to work on - I cannot say a direction, because still we don’t know the direction. We need to understand many things with this new bike.
“I tried to adapt the bike to my riding style [on Friday] and it didn’t work. So now I'm trying to work on my riding style and try to ride in the best way possible with another riding style.
“It’s true that I missed Indonesia and Argentina, but at the moment I'm the only [Honda rider] that stayed consistent every race I've been in. But we are not on the pace, we don't have the speed to fight for the championship and to fight for victories.
“I’m struggling, but I'm trying to survive in another mode and I can get good results - okay in the past, you would say [fourth] is not a good result, but in this moment it’s a good position.”
Marquez is now ninth in the world championship, as the top Honda rider, but 45-points behind Quartararo.
The next best Honda was LCR’s Takaaki Nakagami, in seventh place.