‘Confused’ Espargaro questions tactics after Marquez given different-spec Honda

"I don’t know if I'm good, if I'm bad, if it’s the bike, if it's the package I'm using, I don’t know what's going on..." - Pol Espargaro, Honda MotoGP

Pol Espargaro, Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda 2021

Pol Espargaro has revealed he is disappointed to learn he is using a different specification Honda RC213V to Marc Marquez, leaving him on the back foot in his attempts to develop his style on the machine. 

The Spaniard made the high-profile switch from KTM to Honda over the winter and was joined by team-mate Marquez for the first time during Round 3 at Portimao following a long period out through injury for the six-time MotoGP World Champion.

After finishing tenth to Marquez’s ninth place result in Jerez, Espargaro admits he was disappointed with his result, describing certain areas on the bike as a ‘mess’.

MotoGP 2021 | Marc Marquez Return on Track In Barcelona | Visordown

"We do not have traction, we do not turn and our speed is not good,” he said. "I cannot ride smooth. My pace didn't come. I'm riding tight. Trying to gain every time more and more on the brakes, until the brakes give up and then I go wide. Because in the other areas we are a mess, so… it's like this.

"We are going to take the test [on Monday] as a proper test and we are going to work in the way Honda wants.

Espargaro’s frustration has been compounded further upon learning his team-mate is using a different specification to his RC213V.

While the Spaniard doesn’t want to pry too much as to the reasons why, he says it is slowing up development for the entire team because he and Marquez are on different machines. LCR team-mates Alex Marquez and Takaaki Nakagami have now reverted to the 2020 Honda, the latter doing so for this weekend and going on to finish fourth in Sunday's race.

“I'm just an employee and I'm going to do what they want me to try, different packages… and let's see which one was better."

"We are all using different packages, let's say like that. [Marc's] using one, I'm using another one. And the satellite team are using another one,"

"The problem I have now is I don’t know if I'm good, if I'm bad, if it’s the bike, if it's the package I'm using, if it's my riding style, I don’t know what's going on. For me – being new [to the bike] – I have this confusion.

"So I have the feeling they are working big, but as my knowledge [of the Honda] is zero I cannot help them and they cannot help me and I cannot check anything to try to help myself, because everyone is in [a different] way.”

The perils of being Marc Marquez’s MotoGP team-mate

We had to wait a long time for Marc Marquez to throw his leg over a MotoGP bike but it has taken only two rounds for the Spaniard to reapply his overarching influence on a Repsol Honda team left floundering in his absence for almost a year.

These are about as strong a quotes from Espargaro as you’d probably hope for this early on in his Repsol Honda career, skirting just shy of being ‘angry’ but making it clear he is disappointed Honda is following Marquez’s was of doing things rather than devoting more time to bringing its fully fit alternative up to speed.

It begs the question as to whether Honda has really learned its lesson. Espargaro’s signing in early 2020 was supposed to ensure it had a strong rider to call upon if Marquez was indisposed… except that worst case scenario came one year too early.

In the past Honda has been accused of putting all of its eggs in one basket in that it develops a special RC213V for Marquez’s evidently unique riding style, one that demands aggression but a fine edge between limit and disaster, at the behest of anyone else in Honda colours.

In Honda’s defence, it has been lost for longer than Marquez’s injury. It’s easy to forget now but Honda was all at sea during pre-season testing in 2020 and Marquez’s injury from round one meant it was left to the inexperienced Alex Marquez and the on-off injured Cal Crutchlow to front development. It was no coincidence that Honda’s best representative was Takaaki Nakagami on a 2019 bike.

Now Honda is playing catch up and it’s understandable it would default to listening to Marquez, but with Nakagami and (Alex) Marquez back on last year’s bike, Espargaro finds himself attempting to learn his way around a bike with absolutely no reference point for him to judge his riding style.

It’s tough being Marquez’s team-mate… injury or not.