Portimao does not merely represent the third round of the 2021 season for Pol Espargarò. From a certain point of view, it can almost be said that the real season for Honda’s Spanish rider begins on the Portuguese track, because for the first time he will share the garage with Marc Marquez, finally back on the bike. Espargarò has repeatedly said he will be happy to have the Spanish champion at his side in HRC, but it is also true that a possible excellent performance by Marquez could represent a real thorn for Pol.
After having been out of action for nine months without ever getting back onto a MotoGP bike, a question mark remains regarding Marquez’s potential to immediately be competitive, but we are talking about a phenomenon and many observers are ready to bet that thanks to him Honda’s season will take on a different direction. In any case, Espargarò will have to remain calm, focused and aware of the fact that his apprenticeship on the Honda is far from over.
"Marc will be fast right away, I have no doubts about this - said Espargarò - he tested right here not many days ago, certainly Marc is Marc and he has been on this bike for more than nine years. He knows the strengths and weaknesses of this bike and I don't know how long he will take, but he will be fast. We all expect to find him fast here and this will show us the true potential of our bike. "
Does it change a lot for you to have him here?
"For me it doesn't change very much. It is important to have Marc here, for the team, for Honda. It will also be important because Marc stopped quite early in 2020 and the bike has changed a lot since then. We need to confirm that the bike is better and I am not able to say it, because I was not here last season. Marc has participated in the development of the bike every year, he is the one who knows it best. For me it will be important because he will show me where I can push more. We are all excited to have him here, it will be nice to have him back ".
Are you satisfied with your performance in Qatar or did you expect something else?
"I didn't sleep much after Qatar. Every day I woke up looking forward to racing here. Qatar was not exciting for us, because we always had a good race pace, in tests, over the weekend. We worked well, I had the pace of the best but I always started too far behind. My performance was not good in terms of absolute results, because I certainly didn't want to finish my two races that way. But if we look at my performances in a bigger way , they weren't bad. I'm happy to start again today, I hope to work well for the qualifying. I think all we need is a good Saturday, the rest will come as a result. The bike works well, we just need a good qualifying session".
Do you think Portimao can also help you understand the Honda better on a track other than Losail?
"Yes, absolutely. Portimao will be very useful for me to understand the Honda better, because in Qatar the situation is sometimes strange and our bike has never been very strong at Losail in the past seasons. When you test there during the day, you experience one condition, which then changes in the evening and that complicates things when you have to understand a new bike. Last year I went strong all weekend here, so I hope I can go just as well. Taka went strong, so the bike works, just as I know I can go strong here. Let's see what happens. "
Last year Oliveira dominated, do you think he can repeat that result or do you see the KTM in difficulty?
"Oliveira is the 100% favourite to win here. Miguel's speed here reminds me of what Nicky Hayden used to do at Laguna Seca. He maybe suffered on other tracks, then when it came to Laguna Seca he beat everyone. I feel this track will be good for him, even if at the moment it is not clear how fast the KTM is. But in reality Qatar is Qatar, I think Miguel will be the benchmark, I have few doubts about that. "