MotoGP

Defiant Marc Marquez insists he was looking for another rider to track

Marc Marquez dismisses the assertion he was intentionally following Fabio Quartararo despite slowing down to ensure he was behind him before flying lap

Marc Marquez has claimed he was looking for a rider other than Fabio Quartararo to follow during qualifying for the Malaysian MotoGP, despite evidently slowing in order to track the Frenchman moments before his huge high-side.

The Spaniard escaped serious injury despite the severity of his accident at turn two, the Repsol Honda’s rear tyre sliding out before gripping to flick him into a ferocious high-side that resulted in a heavy impact for his feet, wrist and head.

Curiously though, Marquez dismissed the assertion he was intentionally trying to seek out Quartararo – who has been on lap record pace all weekend - to use him as a reference point.

He had tried a similar tactic earlier in the session too when he fluffed his first flying lap, slowing down before picking up behind Quartararo only to be out paced by almost a second on their initial efforts.

However, after tracking him into the pit-lane, he returned right beside him as they exited for the final minutes, leading to an uncomfortable out-lap in which the Frenchman repeatedly slowed in an effort to get him to pass, only for the Spaniard to crawl too. However, he maintains it Quartararo’s presence was incidental.

“I tried to push alone in the first practice, but alone my lap time was 1m 59.4-59.3,” he told Crash.net. “If I have somebody in front, I was able to do 1m 59.0-58 high. But it was impossible to do a 1m 58 low like they did.

"Just this time it was Quartararo, but honestly speaking, I was looking for another rider, because it's quite difficult to follow him, because he's doing the lap time in a different way and it's not so good to follow him with the Honda.

"I was looking for another rider. But yes, this time the strategy was not the perfect one."

The somewhat unceremonious way his qualifying session ended though was met with cynicism from others in the paddock, with Lin Jarvis berating him for trying to ‘get into Quartararo’s head’ only to ‘hit his head’ himself.

Did Marc Marquez do anything against the rules?

First things first, not matter who you support, nobody wants to see a rider hurt and Marquez was certainly very lucky not to be more seriously injured in what was a big impact.

Secondly, there isn’t a direct rule against towing, even if it is roundly disliked by fans and riders alike (even if they have all done it at some point) and considered against the ‘spirit of the regulations’. That said, you can’t rule against ‘spirit’ of a regulation.

In lower speed disciplines, like Moto3, there have been farcical situations in the past where riders have sped up and slowed in order to get a tow, though this is more for slipstreaming purposes and officials have come down hard in terms of penalties before.

There is no guarantee Marquez had the pace to get pole position from Quartararo even if he was following him. The Yamaha has the edge through the corners and he’d most likely have escaped by the time they reached the long straights at the end of the lap where the Honda does have the advantage.

For Marquez, it is also about race day. A lap in which he was able to get close to Quartararo would have probably gotten him further up the grid and come Sunday you can almost bet he will find himself following him for laps and laps before making an attack, as he did in Misano and Thailand.

Quite why he insists he was not following Quartararo is baffling though, not least because at least five riders passed the duo as the Frenchman tried to shake off his rival – any one of them could have been ‘another rider’. Is it a mind game? Most likely, Marquez is trying to save some face from a rather embarrassing episode that – injuries notwithstanding – will have been a satisfying outcome for rivals that have been victim to his ‘annoying’ towing tactics in the past.

There is as safety aspect to be concerned with though. Quartararo might be vindicated in his actions but slowing to such a pace and focusing on one rider is potentially dangerous as other riders could be on fast laps behind them, while the knock-on effect of cool tyres after a slow out-lap is in clear evidence.

No-one has broken a rule, but both may get a stern warning that they shouldn’t repeat this going forward.

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