• Team: Repsol Honda (factory)
  • Bike: RC213V
  • Wins: 3
  • Podiums: 4
  • Best Qualifying: 3rd
  • Fastest Lap: 2
  • DNFs: 4
  • Championship position: 7th

Marc Marquez may have missed the start and finish of the 2021 MotoGP season but the injured Spaniard still managed three wins - a tally beaten by only Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia - on a bike that took just a single podium in the hands of all the other Honda riders combined.

With Marquez sidelined by an infected broken right arm during 2020, Honda was in the depths of its longest win drought since 1982 by the time MotoGP arrived at the Sachsenring.

Still struggling for strength in his arm and shoulder, Marquez had been no higher than seventh after falling in three of the opening five races of his comeback. But the anti-clockwise German track was not only a favourite of Marquez but had just three of the right-handers where he was stuffering most.

The result was Marquez and Honda's first victory since 2019, an emotional reward for the past year of setbacks, operations and rehabilitation.

Marquez's problems weren't just physical but technical, with development made to the Honda in his absence receiving a lukewarm response upon his return and some backtracking followed before a path forward was identified.

But the bike remained 'tricky', to put it mildly, the falls list for the season featuring three Honda riders in the top four. A lack of rear grip and some spectacular on-throttle highsides catching out the RCV riders.

Given the chance of re-damaging the troublesome right arm and shoulder whenever he fell, it's no exaggeration to say that Marquez put his body on the line time and time again this season.

The eight-time world champion suffered 22 accidents during his 14 rounds, the highest ratio of any rider this year, as he pushed the Honda beyond its limits.

But just as all the sacrifices were paying off - a run of four podiums, including two wins, making Marquez the highest points scorer from Aragon to Misano 2 and within reach of fourth in the world championship - came an enduro training accident and nightmare repeat of his 2011 eye injury.

It was a cruel blow that halted Marquez's season in its tracks and, although his recovery to date has been described as 'adequate', there has still been no news on when he might return.

Despite slipping to seventh in the final standings, we feel Marquez's achievements during his shortened season - 3 wins from 14 rounds being just one win away from beating the 5/18 ratio by Quartararo and 4/18 for Bagnaia - merit third place on our rider countdown.

But if it were judged purely on bravery in the face of adversity, Marquez would surely be number one.