The symbol on Marc Marquez's helmet, which has always accompanied him, portrays an ant. Actually, in these days at Sepang the Marquez who is doing the ant’s hard work is his brother Alex, who is getting more and more confident riding the MotoGP Honda lap after lap, a bike that requires a correct apprenticeship before getting up close and friendly.
Alex is following a very painstaking work schedule, analysing every time what mistakes he is making on the bike and then improving session after session. Today he finished the day in 17th position on the timesheets, but it is clear that desperately going after fast times is not the priority at this stage of his debut in the top class. The Moto2 world champion must find the rhythm, learn the difficult art of managing tyres over race distance and above all avoid falling into the trap of spending time observing too closely his brother, who despite having considerable physical problems in the Sepang tests, continues to be the man everyone wants to beat.
"I am quite satisfied with today's performance - Alex commented - above all because we worked very well and pushed on the soft tyres, which was very important for me because I wanted to see how far I could push. This morning I tried the time attack, although I did not ride perfectly. The 59.6 that I set is a good enough benchmark. The most important thing for me was that I also did a long run today and it went well enough. I didn’t keep a very fast pace, but it is a good base to work on. I wanted to understand how I felt on a physical level, and I realized that I have to work a little more on this, but in the end I feel good. It was a positive day for me."
On the track we saw you follow Marc. Was it useful?
"You always need to follow the others. Today I followed Cal Crutchlow in a run and then also Marc and it helped me to understand some lines they make at certain points of the track, but I still have to learn to do them alone! Actually, I don't have any major problem at this stage. Maybe going forward and getting better and better, some problems and maybe even the weakest points of the bike will start to emerge. But for the moment I don't feel this kind of sensations".
How is life as Marc's team-mate going? Are you discussing with each other a lot?
"Actually, Marc and I are not very close during the day. He tries some things - Alex stressed - I also try other things to give Honda as much information as possible to improve the bike in view of the tests in Qatar. In the end it is normal for me to listen to what Marc says and what is needed to be strong, but for me it is like having a normal teammate by my side. We are working in a normal way, also because it is always positive to exchange information with your teammate. We can go in the same direction, we never argue. Everyone can have their own opinion and can be right or wrong about certain things but, as I said yesterday, I still have much to improve to start to ride this bike in the right way, so right now it's important for Marc to tell Honda which way to go."
How do you feel the bike, do you feel its limits? Some observers think that to go fast you only have to ride like your brother Marc does…
"I think that at this moment my limit is confidence with myself, more than with the bike, so it’s me who must improve. I have a good feeling with the RCV, with all its power it’s just a bit difficult to understand how far to push into the corners, in order to prepare well for the next corner and this is an aspect I have to work on tomorrow".
Have you identified where you can improve a lot?
"In some points of the track I have problems and I lose a lot of time if I compare myself with the other Honda riders, so I have to try to work well to improve in those sectors of the track. In the first two sectors I am OK, in line with the speed of the others, while in the third and a little bit in the fourth sector I lose time, so I have to work on that. But we are working very well with the team, I am making steps forward every day and as the gap with the best riders comes down, I know it will become more difficult to improve and that I will see smaller steps forward. Every day I learn something, and I think this is the most important thing for me now."
Have you started making any changes to the bike, perhaps to adapt it to your style?
"I have tried little things on the electronics, but the priority for me these days is to understand how to improve the way I ride, how hard to brake, how fast to enter the corners. I have been able to make some small changes, but the priority remains the work on my riding style, on the lines".
After Valencia and Jerez, this is the third track you have ridden a MotoGP bike on. Is it better or worse than what you expected?
"This track is very different compared to Valencia and Jerez and here I feel stronger. Valencia in particular is a track that does not leave you much room for trajectories, there is only one line. Here I feel much better, and I was better also with the Moto2 bike".
Audio recording by Paolo Scalera