It was, he said, like 2019.
That was the year Marquez won his eighth world championship with 12 wins, 18 podiums and an all-time points record, only for a fractured right arm at the 2020 season-opener to trigger two years of misery.
Fresh from a first pole since 2019 at Motegi last weekend, where he went on to match a season-best fourth in his first full race since bone realignment surgery in June, Marquez opened the Thai weekend with a small front-end fall.
But rather than setting him back, it was a sign of Marquez’s growing ability to push the front end of his Repsol Honda to the limit once again.
- Thailand MotoGP, Buriram - Free Practice (2) Results
- Thailand MotoGP, Buriram - Free Practice (1) Results
The Spaniard went on to top opening practice, before claiming a close fourth place – as the top non-Ducati – in the afternoon, having pushed hard throughout another pain-free day.
“Today I said to the team, 'I used many lives!' And it was like 2019, I was pushing all the laps in practice,” Marquez said.
“The problem is the last two years, I couldn't push for all the laps, because if I did, I didn't arrive on Sunday in good [physical] shape. Now, OK, I will not arrive on Sunday with the best performance, but because of a lack of muscle, not because it's painful.
“So for that reason, today I attacked.
"I attacked from the first run – where I crashed already! OK it was a stupid mistake – but then I went out and I attacked again. And my way to find the limit is to make many mistakes in FP1, then put everything in the correct position.
“In FP2 I was already more consistent. But it was the same riding style like in the past. Still not [exactly] like in the past, but coming better and better. Now I hope tomorrow it will rain. Not for the result, but to save my energy. Because today I already feel tired. Because today I pushed, I pushed a lot.”
The Spaniard added: “Today I'm very happy, especially because in Motegi, I felt better than Aragon. But today I felt better than Motegi. So this is what makes me more happy. This means that with more time, I will be better and better. And this is the target.”
In terms of a numerical target, some are already tipping Marquez to fight for what would be a perfect third straight victory in Buriram on Sunday.
That would be a big step from the 7th-9th place that Marquez warned was still their likely position during a ‘normal’ weekend, due to not only his physical condition but the well-publicised technical issues with the current RCV.
“It depends on the circuit, on the weak points of the bike, and the casing in the rear tyre,” Marquez said of his potential, before admitting: “Today, if you check the pace, we are close to the podium.
“If tomorrow there is a race in the morning, we could finish in the top 5. But the target is not to focus on a result. So the target is just keep going, keep pushing.
“Maybe tomorrow I will get up and I will feel more tired. But it's coming better. In Misano, I [returned] very on the limit. In Aragon, I was very on the limit. I even had some doubts about whether to race or not.
“But now, race by race it's getting better and better.
“The main target when I decided to return was to feel the steps from one race to the next. That's what I felt today, and it's the most important.”
Marquez finished Friday practice 0.242s behind Johann Zarco’s Ducati. Team-mate Pol Espargaro was the next best Honda rider in 17th.