Why does Marc Marquez follow his MotoGP rivals so closely on track?

Marc Marquez has another run in with a rival during the San Marino MotoGP... but why does the four-time champion feel the need to track rivals so closely?

Marc Marquez - Repsol Honda MotoGP

It’s been a controversial San Marino MotoGP for Marc Marquez so far following his dust up with Valentino Rossi in qualifying at Misano, which some perceive to be the aggravated culmination of an ‘annoying’ practice in which Marquez is known to tow riders closely.

But why does he do it and is he pushing the limit of what is allowed?

During Friday practice, Rossi had a message flash up on his Yamaha’s dashboard reading ‘Being followed by #93’ (Marc Marquez). The Italian immediately heeded the warning and sat up on entry to turn one, choosing not to have a Honda tracing his every move around the track.

It was a prelude to what would come on Saturday when Marquez closed up to Rossi and planted a direct pass whilst he was on a flying Q2 lap, prompting the seven-time premier class champion to block pass him back – both laps ruined (albeit cancelled anyway because of off track moments for both), point made.

Marquez was quick to note he had only just caught Rossi up “because people will say 'he was following again Valentino’”. He may be right in this instance, but the fact he felt the need to mention it shows it is a practice that has been raised more than once.

How do you improve on perfection?

Indeed, Marquez was recently asked why he can often be seen shadowing riders like Rossi, Maverick Vinales, Andrea Dovizioso and Alex Rins and his response is fairly logical – it’s the pursuit of perfection. 

Cheekily pointing out he has spent a lot of 2019 in the lead of races where he can’t learn much about his rivals (mic drop), Marquez says he therefore needs to use practice to understand the strengths of his rivals – both rider and bikes – in order to improve both his style and the Honda’s.

“Of course, I am not coming out of the box just looking for riders, I just go and if it is them then I try to follow them. Lucky for us this year we lead a lot of laps of the race and this is good but on the other side you cannot compare where your strong points are between the other bikes. 

“Now we work a lot on the 2019 bike and to be more precise in the comments and the weak points, sometimes it is better to follow some bikes then you can realise where they are faster and we are slower.“

Fair point. This is racing after all…

Is it just an anti-Marquez sentiment?

One can sense the frustration from rivals when Marquez employs these practices because in a straight fight it’s hard to see how he can be beaten when the harmony between himself and his Honda RC213V is so seamless.

However, he certainly isn’t the only culprit (if that’s the right word for it). 

Pol Espargaro freely admitted he used both Maverick Vinales and Fabio Quartararo – the clear pace setters at Misano – as his reference points for a fast lap at Misano that hauled the KTM up to second place between them. 

Indeed, the slipstream the Spaniard got off Quartararo more than accounts for the 0.011s margin that got him ahead on the timesheets, yet he is celebrated for his efforts. 

Marquez did something similar earlier in the year at Mugello when he tucked up behind Andrea Dovizioso at enough of a distance to inch his way closer to the Ducati until he could get into the slipstream on the long straight home. Marquez didn’t have the fastest bike that day, but he was certainly the quickest rider and he made it count. 

In a sport where fortunes can vary wildly based on blinks of an eye – just look at the recent British MotoGP – slipstreaming, tailing or caravanning can make all the difference. 

Marquez is a perfectionist and his approach to race weekends – whether it’s spending most of FP2 slugging out laps in the search of a perfect race set up rather than a quick lap or tracking the rivals that could beat him to pole – is the fine line between savvy genius and frustratingly aggressive. 

Either way, don’t expect him to change no matter who block passes him in retaliation.