Repsol Honda team manager Puig is under pressure after a horrible season - in Germany he oversaw the first MotoGP race in 40 years where Honda scored zero points, he watched star man Marquez undergo a career-threatening surgery then somehow still out-score his teammates in the end-of-year MotoGP standings.

Marquez, who has enjoyed his heyday alongside Puig as well as his darkest moments when his racing future was at stake, said with two races left in 2022: “The people can speak bull**** about Alberto, but for me he is crucial.

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“He is crucial because he is honest. When a person is honest and speaks straight to you, normally this person doesn’t have a lot of friends.

“Alberto is honest. Inside the team, a person like this is most important.

“He doesn’t care if you are an eight-time world champion - he doesn’t care if you are an engineer from NASA! He doesn’t care!

“If he says or believes ‘this is not the direction’, he will say it to you. He is a person who helps a lot.

“I have heard many comments about Alberto but I am very happy with him.”

Puig said: “I know Marc very well, he is our rider, he is my friend. I fully understand what he is going through.

“I am connected to his programme.

“When you enter this type of position in a racing team you must understand that you will have good and bad moments.

“If you pretend it will be paradise, it means you don’t understand this racing field.

“We have had very good years, now we are suffering really badly.

“How do I handle it? I just handle it.”

Marquez was speaking ahead of the Malaysian MotoGP, by which time he had recovered from his latest major surgery to score a pole position in Japan and a podium finish in Australia. An awful year for Honda finally had some hope for the future.

He ended the season in 13th despite missing six rounds due to injury - somehow, still above fellow Honda riders Alex Marquez, Pol Espargaro and Takaaki Nakagami.

That optimism was partially wiped out when Marquez criticised Repsol Honda’s 2023 prototype bike at the postseason Valencia test.

His brother Alex will be in the 2023 MotoGP rider line-up for Gresini Ducati, a move which may worry Honda if it paves the way for their star man to eventually follow.