It’s not as if any further evidence of the depth of Honda’s plight in the MotoGP season was needed, but 2020 world champion Joan Mir provided it anyway by admitting that this year has made him so unhappy he considered retiring from MotoGP at the age of 25.
Mir joined the works Repsol Honda team this year as Pol Espargaro’s replacement alongside Marc Marquez after previous team Suzuki quit MotoGP.
While on paper that created a superteam pairing of a six-time MotoGP world champion and the man who stepped up to claim the first ‘post-Marquez’ title in 2020, the reality has been a year of incessant crashes and injuries across the Honda line-up, with the bike not even especially competitive when its riders are able to stay on it.
Mir’s 11th place in the Portimao season-opener remains his only points finish of the season so far. He was injured in crashes at both Termas de Rio Hondo in early April (head and neck trauma) and Mugello in June (finger damage that ultimately ruled him out of three grands prix).
He first made the retirement revelation in an interview with Spanish broadcaster DAZN, and expanded on his thoughts when he met the wider media in the Red Bull Ring paddock today.
Mir admitted that he had been “collapsing” mentally earlier this year but said he had now got himself into a better place and felt committed to making things work at Honda, even though for now it involved accepting that good results were a long way away.
“I’m crossing tough times,” he said.
“I’m in a moment that I now accept in the situation that I am. Before I didn’t want to accept it, and probably mentally this is more difficult, because you want one thing, you cannot get it, you cannot get it, you cannot get it… And it’s hard to accept it.
“Now I accept it. I know the situation that I am in. And I want to turn things around. This is the important thing.
“It’s true that in one moment I thought seriously about stopping. But not because I wanted to go to another bike. I wanted to stop because mentally I was collapsing.
“Now I’m not in that situation. Now I’m in a different situation.
“I know that if I stopped, in the future I would regret it a lot. This is the main thing. You say ‘I want to stop!’, it will happen to you some time that you are not having a good time in your job and you have some discussions with a lot of people, you just have a bad month and you want to stop.
“And you say ‘if I leave here, I will regret it in the future’. I was in that situation. Then I thought that I want to keep trying.”
Mir admitted that he’d also thought of quitting when he suffered multiple injuries in a massive Brno crash during his rookie season in 2019, but that he got over those thoughts quicker that time.
“When you have a bad time and such a bad crash, you think a lot of things to yourself, if it’s worth it. So that also happened that time,” he said. “But within one day I was back.”
Part of Mir’s strategy for staying in better mental shape over his and Honda’s situation is to focus on the fact the team is at least bringing development parts, saying that “always gives you motivation to be more optimistic”.
At the Red Bull Ring this weekend he will get his first experience of the substantially revised aerodynamic package that LCR’s Taka Nakagami trialled at Silverstone two weeks ago – shown on the left in the comparison image below.
Nakagami reported that this generated “crazy downforce” but with knock-on consequences for other areas of performance, including that it was such a different concept it required a total set-up rethink and because the increase in front grip it provides leave the rear end comparatively grip-light.
Mir said he’d accepted the reality of that and was focusing on long-term improvement scope rather than expecting any immediate gains.
“New aerodynamics, but quite different,” he said.
“So this means that all the balance and everything changes so much.
“For sure we will improve in some areas but it will make other ones worse. I think overall it must be better.
“And we will be focused on trying to make a base [setting]. I don’t know if we will be able to make the base tomorrow or on Saturday or even on Sunday. Or even if we’ll need more races. But it’s the first point and an improvement is always welcome.
“For me it’s not a drama to make the [rear] grip worse if we improve in one area because it means that we have another way to improve, and this is what I want to do: I want to try things, I want to take some risks in set-ups, I want to make the bike different.”