Having missed the Portimao and Jerez events due to a personal health reason, Repsol Honda team manager Alberto Puig has returned to the MotoGP paddock at this weekend's Le Mans round.

After enjoying one of his best days on an RCV so far with fourth in both Friday sessions in France, new HRC signing Pol Espargaro explained how 500cc race winner Puig plays a 'crucial' role in helping communicate with the engineers and turn MotoGP data into real-world riding ideas.

"It's not about a weakness in communication between the Japanese and me," Espargaro began. "Sure, the Japanese culture is very different to the European one and sure it's harder for me to explain my problems to a Japanese person than to Alberto. But I think it's more about relationship.

"For me, Alberto in the team is very important because Alberto is a guy that first of all has been a rider. So he always understands our feelings, even if there are things that are not going good.

"Sometimes the Japanese, or just technicians and electronics engineers in general, everyone sees everything in numbers. And you are one number, on a bike full of numbers.

"When I talk with Alberto everything becomes more human. He understands my problems in another level and he is translating it to all the Japanese crew because he knows them more than me.

"Having Alberto back is more than important, it's crucial. I talk so much with Alberto and he understands me so well and I'm super open with him."

What kind of advice does Puig give you?

"The Japanese, electronics guys or technicians see the data and they say, 'okay, Marc is braking later than you' or 'Marc's accelerating better than you'.

"But Alberto's way of analysing this data is reducing my work because he sees the data and tries to understand why, for example, Marc accelerates better than me: 'Okay Pol, your line is not the proper one'. 'Okay Pol, maybe you are opening the throttle a little bit early or he picks up a little bit early'. 'Okay Pol, in this place it's very important to do this kind of things with the Honda'.

"When I have a problem, I can explain to him the problem or when I'm talking to for example Ramon [Aurin, crew chief], he's always listening and he can tell me, 'Okay mate, try to do this. Or why not do this?'

"Things that come from one rider to another rider are much easier to understand and improve, instead of seeing data and losing a lot of time. It's much more efficient, let's say it like that."

Team-mate Marc Marquez added that Puig was one of the reasons why he decided to sign a lengthy four-year contract extension to remain at Repsol Honda until the end of 2024.

"You have your team and crew chief, in my case Santi. They are working in a very good way and I'm very happy. Then another position is manager/assistant [Emilio Alzamora] that is helping you in your personal side more. But then there is the team manager," said the eight-time world champion.

"The team manager needs to find the good way for communication between the Japanese staff, team and rider and then also a good team manager needs to be inside the strategies.

"I completely agree with Pol, Alberto Puig was riding for many years in MotoGP and - of course I don’t want to say that one is better or worse than another - but Alberto is one of the reasons why I signed for example a four-year contract with Honda.

"He is a really important person inside the team and if he's at the track it's much better for everybody, just for everything to be more under control.

"It will not [directly] change the results maybe, but inside the box everything is more under control and in the hard meetings, he is the person that always speaks honestly to the riders and the engineers. This is very important inside the team."

Marquez was eighth fastest on Friday, at the start of his third weekend since returning to MotoGP action after last year's fractured arm complications.

Honda has not won a MotoGP race since Marquez's last victory at Valencia in 2019.