until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP

Marquez’s unnatural new approach was sad but correct

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

That Marc Marquez’s British Grand Prix weekend didn’t end in glory is hardly a novel development for the six-time MotoGP champion’s 2023 season, given he has only accrued 15 points so far and none of them have come on Sundays.

That it didn’t feature even a hint of glory, or even the intention of glory, was more unusual.

It perhaps was foreshadowed already on Thursday, when Marquez acknowledged his approach in the prior stretch of the season had not been correct, that he had aimed too high – and that he was anyway arriving to Silverstone with lingering injuries, namely to his right ankle and right leg.

Given the conditions, though, you would have expected Marquez to put all of those considerations to the side, to push himself to the front in the rain and feature towards the front in at least one of the races – even if that would then be potentially followed by him dusting himself off in the gravel trap at Stowe, having crashed out in a blaze of glory.

Au contraire. Marquez did end up on the ground on Sunday – not in the gravel but in the asphalt run-off between Maggots and Becketts – but it wasn’t a crash from going over the limit. Rather, it was a weird shunt into the back of Enea Bastianini’s Ducati just as the rain started to pick up at Silverstone.

Bastianini said Marquez just ran into the back of him, Marquez felt it was “a very unlucky situation” brought on by the Ducati man making an error while Marquez himself was deliberately taking a less-than-optimal line through the corner.

The available footage doesn’t make it particularly clear one way or another, but it does point to a minor, fluke-y accident – albeit one that may have then caused Bastianini himself to crash (through damage inflicted) a few corners later, and also somehow the second bewildering instance of Marquez running into the back of Bastianini in two rounds.

It didn’t bother Marquez much, in any case, because points seemingly don’t matter at all this season. “I’m happy about my weekend and I’m happy about this Sunday,” he insisted to MotoGP.com.

“I think we rode in a good way and [had a] good approach.”

Impressively, he was pressed quite strongly on that sentiment.

He went out in Q1 (although probably should’ve been in if not for losing time behind team-mate Joan Mir on his final lap), found his sprint race to be hopeless enough that he deliberately dropped behind Mir to observe things, and was quite restrained in the race – admittedly not helped by early contact taking off one of the winglets – before a clumsy-looking retirement. What on Earth was there to be happy about?

“Happy because I’m looking only at myself. I’m looking to try to rebuild my confidence on the bike.

“I had zero crashes during all weekend – OK today on Sunday I crashed but was not a crash of pushing on the limit.

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“I had more but I don’t want to use it now. Because to have that extra, then it’s a lot of risk.

“Now it’s a different mentality, of course. But I need to keep going like this. if not…”

Marquez trailed off after saying that, instead switching his line to “we need to find a base to build our future”. The logical conclusion to that sentence will have been ‘if not, I will just keep hurting myself’.

On these same (web)pages earlier this season, I had given Marquez some grief for having pushed too hard when settling for decent-ish results was an option. It is no longer an option now, Honda’s situation having seemingly grown ever more dire, but with that earlier argument in mind it would be logically inconsistent to treat Marquez’s latest admission with anything but an ‘oh… well, fair enough’.

There was perhaps a touch of Fernando Alonso-esque ‘look at how bad the situation is’ dramatics in his decision to drop behind Mir on Saturday. But, well, things are bad, and Marquez breaking a collarbone while chasing a sixth place or taking off some rival’s seat unit while running higher than his race pace realistically allows for in the longer run would help nobody.

Anything more than the most fleeting of successes looks currently unavailable. The Sachsenring round had proven as much, drowning out the romantic view of Alex Rins’ surprise win at the Circuit of the Americas earlier this season.

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Publicly Marquez’s insistence is that this way is the best way to help Honda. Stay fit, ride around 80% (actual number may vary), collect as much data as you can, observe as much as you can, test what there is to test – and, with the absence of concessions, do it in race weekends because there’s more value in that than an extra five or six points.

“Of course if I feel well some weekends I will try to push. But this weekend from the beginning I felt a bit strange, and also physical condition I was not 100%.

“So, for that reason I was very calm wet conditions, I was very calm on Friday, I was calm today on the race, I was not pushing a lot. Of course I was pushing but not 100%.

“Then in Austria we will see. If we have the same feeling… I mean, follow the instinct.

“Of course more crashes will arrive [at some point]. We are racing.”

Privately, you have to wonder whether Marquez is particularly mindful of allowing those extra crashes in Honda colours.

It seems likely that he will stay put for 2024 – he didn’t publicly entertain any other possibility at Silverstone, even though his wording of ‘I have a contract’ maybe left the door ever so slightly ajar.

Marc Marquez

But he is anyway set to be a free agent for 2025 – and it makes all the sense in the world to minimise the injury risk suffered between now and then.

The quality of what Honda has in store for 2024 will change the maths on that, one way or another. But before the first real indication of that comes, in the Misano test in September, and there’s only so much to do in the meantime.

With Marquez pushing 100%, even if he crashes, Honda’s performance at least comes off as mediocre. When he’s not, the RC213V looks avert-your-eyes awful. The only other rider who’s dragged it to respectability this year is not just out with injury but is walking away in 2024.

Some Marquez heroics really could make it all a bit more palatable for Honda right now. And, in football parlance, anyone could be forgiven for wanting to see a bit of “fighting for the badge” from him right now. But there are six extra championship stars on that proverbial badge thanks to Marquez – and though he would clearly risk for Honda glory, he will not risk for Honda respectability.

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