When MotoGP made its last big technical switch in 2016 - from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres and a standard ECU - Marc Marquez was on the podium in the opening Qatar race and won next time in COTA.

That perhaps puts some perspective on the magnitude of the changes made to the Honda RC213V this season, a bike that Marquez says is "so different from previous years, it's almost like I changed manufacturer.

"It is completely different, but without a doubt, we will work to adapt. It's a new challenge."

Marquez's hurdles are not just technical of course, having battled serious arm, shoulder and eye injuries for the past two seasons. But it was still a surprise to see a Repsol Honda rider without the #93 leading for lap after lap at last Sunday's season-opener.

Pol Espargaro equalled his podium tally from the whole of 2021 with an eventual third place at Lusail, just 1.4s from Gresini Ducati race winner Enea Bastianini with KTM's Brad Binder in-between.

Marquez meanwhile was forced to settle for fifth, meaning a rare team-mate defeat without some kind of incident, injury or weather interruption coming into play.

"I didn't have any problems about physical condition, I didn't feel pain. Just there were four riders faster than us," Marquez admitted on Sunday evening.

Instead, it's adapting to the new rear-grip orientated RCV that is holding Marquez back.

"We are discovering different things with this new bike, and since I started at the first test we improved, especially at Mandalika," he said.

"[In Qatar] we didn't touch the bike a lot, because it was the first race and I don't want to lose the way. We just concentrated on the racing line and tyres. And in Mandalika we will continue that process to adapt the bike to my riding style."

Marquez's biggest issue at present was clearly visible when he repeatedly ran wide in Lusail; this year's rearward shift in grip means he can't attack into corners like he used to, while Espargaro is able to use much more rear brake.

"It's a big change, the way to ride the bike is different, but the potential is there," Marquez said.

The front-end problem is also why Marquez, unlike Espargaro, does not have the aerodynamic side pods on his homologated fairing.

"I'm pushing the front a lot already, if I put those, I'm pushing even more," he said.

"But this doesn't make the difference. Where we need to find the difference is to try to understand the front.

"Mandalika will be better – better in terms of the result I don't know, but it will be easier to understand things, because you can work in the morning and in the afternoon sessions.

"Here in Qatar it was more difficult and this is also a very special circuit, so now we will understand more in Mandalika, Argentina and Austin where we are."

But the 29-year-old made clear: "The pressure is always on because my goal is to fight for the World Championship... I think consistency is going to be key this year."

The good news for Marquez is that he still left Qatar having outscored fellow pre-season title favourites such as reigning champion Fabio Quartararo (ninth), 2020 champion Joan Mir (sixth) and title runner-up Francesco Bagnaia (DNF).