Fernandez, 25, held his nerve to clinch the Moto2 title from Ai Ogura at last year’s Valencia finale during his first and only season at Red Bull KTM Ajo.

But it had been far from a straightforward journey to the top for the Spaniard, who was expected to fight for the title when he joined reigning world champions Marc VDS on the back of three wins for Pons in 2019.

Instead, Fernandez plummeted to 13th in the 2020 standings. 2021 then started with four non-scores from eight races, but Fernandez rebuilt his form in the second half, when six podiums pulled him up to fifth in the standings and caught the eye of Ajo.

Marquez is Running Out Of Time | World domination for Ducati | MotoGP Podcast EP.78


Fernandez has been ranked 22nd in both of his MotoGP outings to date, at Valencia last November and then Sepang in February, but left Malaysia within 0.9s of experienced team-mate Pol Espargaro.

“Well, I’m jumping into MotoGP with this confidence of being world champion and it’s good but honestly I don’t know what to expect in terms of positions,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to being competitive soon and trying to be in the battle with my team-mate.”

There is always pressure to deliver in MotoGP but perhaps especially so for Fernandez, given KTM has cleared out the Tech3 rider line-up twice in the last two years and former Moto2 team-mate Pedro Acosta is considered a ‘when’ not ‘if’ for a future RC16 seat.

“I think I am facing the most important year of my career but I know I need to be patient,” said Fernandez, who is understood to have a one-year KTM contract with an option for 2024.

“I am discovering everything that it means to be a MotoGP rider, a factory rider.

“But it’s good to see how many people you have behind you and not just your team; the whole factory that is waiting for you and your results.

“Portugal is coming soon and I’m really looking forward to it and it’s a dream come true: my debut in MotoGP. I honestly can’t wait.”

The final MotoGP pre-season test takes place at Portimao next weekend, with Fernandez’s first premier-class race set to be the Saturday sprint on March 25.