Pol Espargarò is probably in the most delicate moment of his MotoGP career. His debut season on the Honda did not go exactly as hoped, with the Spaniard having to fight a lot with a bike that was difficult to interpret. Many thought that Pol's adaptation would be simpler, coming from KTM and from a technical layout in some ways similar to that used by HRC.
However, the facts have disproved this idea and now Espargarò must prove that he can make amends to hope to be confirmed in Honda in the future. The Spaniard will have little time to do so, because talks about 2023 contracts have already begun and it is no secret that Honda is aiming for another top rider to join Marc Marquez. Joan Mir looks like the number one candidate, but Pol can still prove that he deserves the bike that in the hands of Marquez dominated in the past. The winter tests and the very first races of the season will undoubtedly be fundamental for his future, but he liked the Honda prototype brought to Jerez a lot and is convinced he can take a completely different path in this 2022.
"You have to take things as they come - said Pol - We worked hard to improve the situation, but everyone did, even the other teams. We gathered a lot of information to create the basis for 2022. I felt good after Silverstone, I started to feel confident with the bike and I wanted to finish the season with a great race in Valencia and I think I would have done, it's my favourite track. Then I crashed and the plan went awry. This pre-season I have experienced differently, I’ve worked to be a better rider. Honda has worked to give us the best possible in Malaysia, I can't wait to get back on the bike."
Pol Espargarò: "Marc is a genius on a motorcycle, but the new bike will help everyone"
Do you think the new bike is less geared to Marc's needs and easier for all the Honda riders?
"For one thing I don't think the old bike was built just for Marc, allowing him to have his full advantage. It was based on the comments from the riders, who say a few things and the engineers used those comments to improve it. On the old bike Marc was a genius, and he continues to be so for the way he rides it. Because the way he rides it is simply the best, it is not a bike that is less suited to others. He is strong, that's the way it is. The new bike seems different, it has more grip on the rear. At Misano we all felt better, Honda listened to us all and when they brought us the new bike, it immediately seemed better. During the year we all complained about various problems that did not allow us to always be fast. We were all happy with the changes made, but as I said this is just the beginning. We have to take it to other tracks to understand how much it has improved and how fast it is like it was at Misano and Jerez . When there is something new you have to stay calm, because the situation can change very quickly. Having Marc with us in the winter tests will be essential for us to try to have the best bike possible at the start of the season. "
Your 2021 wasn't easy, but what are your goals now?
"At the beginning of 2021 I knew I had to work to improve, but I didn't know the bike well and I didn't know which direction to take in development. I knew it would take time. With only 5 days of testing it was not easy to improve before the start of the season. It was tough, but in the end I can say that I have high expectations for 2022. If things go well in the tests, I think I can fight for the top five right away. If we succeed at the beginning, during the season it will go always better. I want to start from where I was in Valencia before the crash. "
Do you think the new bike is objectively better?
"The bike is better, but it is too early to understand how much. We have to get back on track with the others to understand where we are, we are not the only ones to put a new bike on the track. We will understand this in Malaysia when there will be the first comparisons with our rivals. We have to work on this and in the first few days we will understand everything, even if we will not be at the top immediately. I think that if we have the pace to fight at the top immediately we will do it, otherwise we will need calm to work to improve. The Ducati is very strong on the straight, if we want to have a good season we have to improve on the straight to be able to fight with them in the race and not be overtaken all the time. Everything will be important, but we have to stay calm and see what happens in the next tests. "
Pol Espargarò: "Being in the garage with Marc is not easy, but I have learned so many things"
It will be your second season in the garage with Marc, how much did you learn from him in 2021?
"I hope to be able to ride more with Marc this year and start the season together. Being by his side in the garage is not easy. He rides and adapts to low grip and every problem more easily, his experience on the bike helps and he adapts very well. At first I was in great difficulty riding it, pushing it into acceleration without sliding too much. This is important in the way he rides, in the way he uses the throttle. He manages the throttle when cornering in a unique way, picking up the bike out of the corners. Something that I'm learning to do in the same way, I've worked hard on it. Even if the new bike is different, it has more grip and I think it will help us all improve. I think it will help us in qualifying above all. We will all be able to show what we will be able to do with the new bike. "
How much has your approach changed this winter?
"Mentally, I haven't changed much. Even with a lot of pressure, I've been hanging in there, I've been fine. Physically I've trained more than is necessary to ride a MotoGP. I don't think that's my problem. Technically I discovered how to use the throttle and how important it is to do it differently. On the Honda I couldn't even use the rear brake as I always did in the past. In 2021 I couldn't do it and for this reason I suffered a lot when entering corners. I trained differently, doing different disciplines to better manage these things, using many different types of bikes."