After spending four years at KTM, Pol Espargaro had just five days of pre-season testing to get settled in at Repsol Honda before starting the 2021 MotoGP season.

It was nowhere near enough time to understand a tricky machine that only Marc Marquez had won races on since early 2018.

To make matters more complicated for Espargaro, Marquez was still missing, sidelined by his infected arm fracture and deny his new team-mate of the chance to learn from his data.

"At the beginning of the year, I didn't know how to improve the problems and control the situation. I was too new for this bike," Espargaro admitted. "We were trying different things to try to improve the bike, but I knew it would take time. And time was the one thing we didn't have.

"We were working hard. All of us, not just me, also the satellite Honda team and the Repsol Honda team, but without Marc it was hard.

"We had just five days of testing. It's not easy for rookie riders or those in new teams. So it was a tough moment, but by the end of the year I started to feel good."

Marquez re-joined the action from round three in Portimao and the eight-time world champion's data helped highlight the areas where Espargaro was struggling.

A lack of rear grip proved a thorn in the side of all Honda riders this year, but Marquez was able to make the best of it, winning three races before further injury woe forced him out of the last two rounds.

"Hopefully I will have more chances to ride with Marc this year, hopefully he will stay healthy and we can start the season together, which is going to be great," Espargaro said.

"Marc is a guy who is used to ride with this low grip. So he was adapting his style and able to take the maximum performance from this low grip. His experience on the bike also helped him quite a lot, and he has adapted his style to this super well.

"For me, at the beginning of the year especially, it was super hard to know how to ride the bike in this way, to take the maximum potential in acceleration. How to not spin too much, but being fast at the same time.

"And this is very important, and his way of taking the throttle and the administration of the throttle in the corner, by opening the throttle plus picking up the bike, this is something that I really need to learn and I'm working quite a lot on it in the preseason, to try to be better next year.

"It's important to do it in a different way than I was doing before. With this low grip, I couldn't open as aggressive as I normally do. Then I couldn't use the rear brake as I normally did in the other categories or other bikes.

"I used to play so much on the entry with the rear brake, and last year I couldn't do that. For me this was one of the reasons that I was struggling so much. We discovered different tools to improve this entry side without using so much rear brake, but I was suffering a lot.

"So for sure I'm training in a different way, doing different kind of motorcycle disciplines which allow me to be more sensitive on the throttle opening and on the rear brake for entry. Hopefully this is going to help me in the 2022 season."

While Marquez took four podiums and three wins from his shortened campaign, Espargaro was the only other Honda rider to appear on the rostrum, courtesy of second place at Misano.

Honda's Marquez-heavy results mean the RC213V is often labelled as being built to suit the unique riding talents of the Spaniard at the expense of all others.

It's a theory Espargaro rejects.

"First of all, I don't think the old bike was based on Marc and that is why Marc was taking a big advantage," he said. "The bike is based on the riders' comments, the riders say something and the engineers do what the riders say, and then the riders try to be as fast as they can.

"And on the old bike, Marc was a genius and is a genius, because his way of riding is the best one. It's not that the bike was fitting him more than the others, it's because he's good.

"Marc is always taking the maximum performance of the bike and showing to you what you can do with this bike. This is nice, it's the best way to push yourself to the limit."

Espargaro added that all four Honda riders have been in agreement as far as feedback on the all-new 2022 machine, with enhanced rear grip.

"The new bike is different, this is true. It's based more on the rear grip. Marc felt comfortable with it in Misano. So Honda has taken all the comments of all the riders to try to do a different bike, and when Honda brought the bike, the bike was better.

"So during the year, we were complaining about several problems, and finally, Honda brought something super different. All the riders comments were quite unified and we were quite happy with the changes.

"[Having more] rear grip I think is going to allow all of us to improve the condition of the throttle opening in a different way. And also to take a little bit more advantage on the qualifying time.

"But this is just the beginning. We need to put the new bike on different tracks, different places. We need to see if the bike is still faster as we saw in Misano and in Jerez, and we need to stay calm, because things can turn quickly."

The good news for Marquez, Espargaro and Honda is that the #93 is cautiously optimistic of being fit to return for testing.

"Marc coming in the pre-season is going to be super important for all of us to try to set the best bike during those five days before starting the season."

Fifth in the world championship during his final year at KTM, Espargaro dropped to twelfth in last year's standings after being forced to withdraw from the Valencia finale due to a huge practice highside.

"After the pole position and almost a podium in Silverstone, then the Misano races, my self-confidence grew and everything started to be much better. I wanted to finish the year doing a great race in Valencia and had some options to end the year in the top 7-8. But then, everything ended as it had started, in a bad way.

"Now we need to start 2022 in the places we ended up last year, fighting for that top five. If we can do that at the beginning of the year, we are going to end the year much better, as we showed last year.

"I'm working hard, and doing different things to come as a better rider in this new year. Also I know Honda is working hard to bring us the best possible package for the beginning of the 2022 preseason in Malaysia. So I'm really looking to jumping on the bike again."

The Sepang test, reduced to just two days this season, takes place from February 5-6.