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MotoGP

Middle finger, weird Zarco outburst – Is Honda cracking Marquez?

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Going into the final few minutes of Friday’s FP2 session at the Sachsenring, it was already quite obvious that Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez was stressed, feeling the pressure of trying to get an underperforming bike into Q2 at a circuit where he’s dominated so routinely in the past.

That attempt ultimately ended in failure, too, as he’d brought out the red flags when his crashed machine collided at high speed with Pramac Racing’s Johann Zarco at Turn 1, absolutely annihilating the Frenchman’s Ducati in one of the most terrifying crashes that MotoGP has witnessed in some time.

And while it’s clear that a hyped-up Marquez was clearly left fuming in the immediate aftermath of the fall, his actions both on the track and off it did little for the beleaguered champion’s image in a season in which he’d already made a massive error that had left a rival injured.

Today’s crash itself is something that’s not entirely unthinkable at the Sachsenring. The circuit, the smallest on the MotoGP calendar both in terms of length and compactness, has a pitlane exit with not much room, and Zarco was trying to exit the pits at a particularly precarious time, with only a few minutes left on the clock and with riders already pushing to set times to secure a Q2 spot.

But, while it might be a tough place to exit completely safely from, he was clearly doing so as carefully as possible when Marquez crashed on braking on the entry to the corner and sent his RC213V hurtling across the track straight at Zarco, with the Honda striking the Ducati with enough momentum that it ripped the front off the Italian bike, writing off the chassis in the process.

Marquez immediately did himself no favours with his instant reaction, picking himself up, glancing at the prone Zarco lying on a live race track next to a smoking bike – and then turning towards a waiting scooter to get back to the pits rather than checking on the Ducati rider.

Simply put, regardless of the cause of a crash, that’s a bad look – and it’s something that Zarco took particular umbrage with afterwards when he spoke to the media.

Marc Marquez Honda MotoGP Sachsenring

Marquez, for his part, claimed that it would’ve only created more risk for him to head towards the live track – and that he’d already seen Zarco hadn’t been seriously hurt. “The other drivers were coming in on fast laps and the only thing you cause [by running there] is more danger – the marshals were there to take care of him,” he said. And he pointed out he went to see Zarco after the session.

In any case, that reaction wasn’t the only or even the main thing Zarco had to be upset about – not after Marquez spoke to the media and laid out his theory of how the person most responsible for the collision was not the one who crashed but rather the one in the firing line.

Sure, it’s fair to say that the crash wouldn’t have happened if Zarco hadn’t been there – but he did nothing wrong in trying to choose the right point upon which to exit pitlane. Considering the name of the game in MotoGP is to stay on the bike rather than throw it at the gravel, it’s very hard to look on with an impartial eye and instead blame Zarco for what happened.

It’s not the first time that we’ve seen an outburst from Marquez that was perhaps rather ill-founded in its certainty – but, coming in the context of the rest of his day at the Sachsenring, it’s perhaps no surprise.

Marquez is undefeated in any race he’s started here since 2009, but it looks increasingly like that’s a record that will fall on Sunday, given the problems that he continues to face with an unruly Honda that simply won’t do what he wants it to do at the minute.

Clearly, this was a super-stressful day – both going by his belief that he’d reached the limit of the package as it was already in the first practice, and his face full of thunder captured by MotoGP cameras as he watched the replays of Honda stablemate Takaaki Nakagami’s crash early in second practice, what in the context of the fact that other Honda full-timers Alex Rins and Joan Mir are already sidelined through injury.

But his mindset on Friday is perhaps best exemplified by his reaction to a huge moment at the circuit’s notorious Waterfall corner.

Lucky to stay on the bike after a massive wobble exiting the downhill turn, it would have been something that Marquez would in the past have played off – rather than looking directly into the bike’s rider-facing onboard camera and extending his middle finger.

“The camera recorded well!” he acknowledged afterwards. “I mean, the adrenaline was super high, I saved a crash in a very fast corner, and then as you imagine the adrenaline was very high and the reaction of the body was that – because I had many-many warnings already this weekend.

“So, yeah, we need to understand how to ride smoother or just a bit slower, and we will not have the moments.”

An instinctive response then? Or a very deliberate message to Honda about the state of the bike its engineers had come up with?

Marc Marquez Honda MotoGP Sachsenring

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