If Johann Zarco had stayed on a Yamaha he would be showing the same speed as rookie MotoGP star Fabio Quartararo this season.

That's the opinion of Cal Crutchlow, whose 0.251s victory over Zarco in Argentina last year remains the closest a satellite M1 rider has got to a MotoGP victory.

But it increasingly looks a case of when, not if, Quartararo will put his Petronas Yamaha on the top step. The 20-year-old has taken four podiums already this season and battled Marc Marquez for victory on the final lap in Misano, eventually losing out by 0.9s.

Meanwhile countryman Zarco, who also took podiums on a satellite Yamaha during his rookie season, won't even be on the grid at Aragon this weekend after being replaced at KTM.

Does Crutchlow have any sympathy for Zarco's situation?

"Yes and no because it is a cutthroat business unfortunately. You have to get results," the Englishman replied.

"He is a smooth rider – and I’m not giving him advice on what he should have done – but if he had stayed on a Yamaha then he’d probably be at the same speed as Quartararo is now, because that's his riding style and he understands the bike."

Zarco was also linked with a possible move to Repsol Honda this season, but would have struggled "the same, if not worse" than at KTM.

"If he thinks the Honda is any easier than the KTM then he needs to think again, if that was his other option at the time," said Crutchlow, who has spent five seasons on the RCV.

"But at the end of the day I do feel sorry for him in one sense: he’s a fantastic rider, a world champion! You don't click your fingers and turn that off.

"I think his personality is a lot different and maybe he didn't deal with the situation as well as others may have been able to.

"It is a shame to see him at home, even if he chose to do that or they chose for him not to ride, because Misano was his best race weekend of the year. Give or take."

Misano was also one of Marquez's best weekends, putting two successive last-corner defeats behind him with a late victory of his own, while gaining 'extra motivation' from a qualifying clash with Valentino Rossi.

But if Marquez is comfortably on course for a sixth premier-class title, the next best Honda (Crutchlow) is only ninth in the standings.

"Our Honda is a very, very good bike. I just cannot get it to turn and the rest is OK, except for the engine braking because I don't have a good feeling and it is unstable in that area," Crutchlow said.

"You can half manage that, but you cannot manage if the bike doesn't turn."

The one-rider nature of the latest RC213V is further spelt out by Crutchlow, Takaaki Nakagami, Jorge Lorenzo and wild-card/replacement Stefan Bradl scoring 189 points between them, while Marquez has single-handedly managed 275 (including seven wins).

"I think [Honda] are fully aware of the situation because I’m sure their goal is to have someone in first, second and third in the race and the championship," said Crutchlow, who has a factory-spec bike at the LCR team.

"I fully understand the situation and agree with their philosophy because you have to follow the direction of the fastest guy and that's the reality.

"If they want more people up there in the championship then they need to think of something else, and going to get another rider is not going to help.

"If they think it’s the riders then they would be wrong. Jorge is a five-time world champion and I’ve had some good races, some podiums and I can be competitive with the bike - maybe not this year’s as much.

"In the end our comments are normally similar to Marc’s, the difference is that he knows he can ride this bike now, so no problem. Honda are winning every week – or the championship - so who cares?"

Crutchlow made clear that Marquez is still pushing to improve the bike - "Marc’s a racer. He’ll try and improve the weak areas"- but also enjoys 'cracking' his competitors by beating them on a difficult machine.

"He is cracking people by what he is winning on. The way he is having to ride to win and people watch it back - the other riders – and see how he is still able to win the race [means] he is cracking them.

"Unfortunately nobody else in the world can do it... I thought Yamaha had traction problems?! Didn't have any traction problems coming out onto the back straight did it? Quartararo was taking eight-nine bike lengths out of Marc every lap."

Ironically, winning in such a way also means there is less incentive for Marquez to leave Honda and challenge himself on another bike.

"He’ll continue to do it for the next I-don't-know-how-many years," Crutchlow said.

"Our bike has its strengths. I think everybody sees that it is hard to ride. He’s enjoying cracking them and that whole side of it."

But if Marquez ever did leave: "He'd be on the podium with Aprilia. Same for the KTM. That's the reality and if people think otherwise they have no idea."

Nonetheless, Crutchlow - the only Honda rider other than Marquez to stand on the podium this season - feels Marquez's current 93-point lead is an anomaly.

"I think in the coming years the championship is going to be a lot closer than now. Marc has only failed to finish one race and the other guys have missed big opportunities."

 

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