The Spaniard’s insatiable desire for success means that, in his own words, ‘As a rider on the track, I’m a bastard!’

Marquez certainly isn’t unique in that respect and taking-no-prisoners usually goes with the territory of being a multiple MotoGP champion.

But it meant Marquez was caught a little by surprise when, shortly after announcing he would undergo a fourth operation on his long-suffering right arm, a succession of rivals offered gestures of support during the slowdown lap at Mugello. 

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“That was a really nice and emotional lap, because you feel the respect of most of the riders and this was great,” Marquez, who had finished the race in tenth place, recalled at the end of the season.

“We all know the risks we are taking when we ride bikes. And with any operation, but especially if it's the fourth time, you never know what the outcome will be.

“To some opponents, maybe you don't wish the best [results] but you would never wish for an injury. Because an injury means not only your professional life changes, but also your personal life.

“With some riders you already [have] respect because you have a good relationship, but from some others [the Mugello slowdown lap] was a surprise.”

‘I feel very sad for Marc’

Among those to wish Marquez all the best for his upcoming operation were Yamaha’s world championship leader Fabio Quartararo and Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro.

“Whatever he feels is the best choice, I will support him, because the last two years were a really tough situation for him,” Quartararo said.

Countryman Espargaro revealed he had been to visit Marquez after the surgery announcement.

“I feel very sad for Marc. I just came from his motorhome. I feel very bad, personally. I mean, he’s the strongest one here psychologically but there is a limit [for everyone]. It’s unbelievable. Crazy. I’m very sorry for him."

Espargaro, who would fight for the world title until the penultimate round, added that he could see Marquez was still struggling with the arm he had originally fractured at Jerez in 2020.

“He was not putting weight on the front. He was sitting back. He was not riding as Marc and this was not because of the bike,” Espargaro said. “He was not riding as normal, for me. Following him on track, he was not doing the same things.

“[But] Marc said to me the doctors in America are at such a high level with technology and he believes it’s going to be fine.”

Fortunately, Marquez’s bone realignment surgery in the US proved a success and, after missing six rounds, the #93 began to rediscover his old style during the closing stages of the season.

Marquez took the struggling RCV to front-row starts in four of the last five rounds plus his only podium of the season at Phillip Island, where he was just 0.186s behind winner Alex Rins.