Reigning MotoGP world champion Marc Marquez was in big trouble after just five laps of Sunday's season-opening Qatar race.

A last-minute rain delay had prompted the Repsol Honda rider to switch from the hard to medium front tyre.

The Spaniard had been persuaded by the damp conditions and change of tyres by other riders, which would have left only Marquez and fellow RC213V rider Cal Crutchlow on the hard.

Both regretted not keeping the hard: Crutchlow fell on lap 4 of 20, just as Marquez also began to struggle.

"They took the decision to delay the race, which I think that was correct. But this also created the biggest confusion for us about the tyres, because the temperature was dropping and the humidity was getting higher.

"I had the hard front tyre, and after all these things I had some doubts. The Michelin guy said 'you are the only one with the hard, be careful, you can crash'. And so I said, 'OK, I go to the medium'. It was a mistake.

"Cal changed as well. And I think Cal was not so happy too... But why were me and Cal on the hard? Because we lose too much on acceleration and the way to recover is to brake later and of course to do that we need some support in the front tyre.

"But yes, this [medium front] was the biggest mistake.

Asked what was possible if he had stuck with the hard front, Marquez said he would either have fought for victory - or crashed!

"After the race, I think with a hard I was able to fight for the victory until the end. But also the hard gives less 'warning', so maybe I'm more competitive, but I crash.

"If you have an easy bike, then it's easier to make the correct tyre decision. If you have a bike where you are on the limit, if you don't make the perfect decision, you lose too much time."

Despite the tyre difficulties, Marquez held second place until the middle of the race, fending off some aggressive moves from former Moto2 rival Andrea Iannone in the process.

Iannone's challenge ended when the new Suzuki rider crashed after running into the back of the #93.

"Yes, I felt it. I opened the gas, and felt BANG! But I thought something had happened with the electronics. Because it was in the moment when I touched the gas. Then it was okay. Later I saw a replay... and yes, he touched me. Lucky. With Iannone is always close!"

Iannone's exit provided only a brief respite for Marquez, with eventual winner Maverick Vinales and Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi now on the attack. Both M1 riders were ahead of the Honda within two laps, after which Marquez was left to fend off team-mate Dani Pedrosa for fourth, which he achieved by just 0.4s.

"After five laps the tyre was destroyed, and I said, 'OK, finish the race', and I was looking at the pit wall, only to see who will arrive behind. I saw 'Dani +3', and I thought, I must keep ahead of him.

"When we finished the race, I heard also that Dani had problems with the medium front - Dani is much lighter and normally he goes with a softer tyre option. So imagine me!"

By Peter McLaren

Cal Crutchlow - Career Profile by Crash_net