Marc Márquez has finally received the OK from the doctors and will race at Le Mans. It will be only the second time we've seen him in race action this season and obviously there is a lot of curiosity about his form, after missing three rounds and only partially raced the first.
In Portimao he surprised everyone in qualifying, taking a magnificent pole and in the Sprint Race the podium had made him start the season all in all with a big smile on his face. Someone like Marc always wants to win, but given Honda's technical situation, the third step of the podium was already a good result. The Portimao Grand Prix ended earlier than expected, with the accident involving Miguel Oliveira. Then there was a series of truly disastrous events for Marc, with the discovery of how serious the injury was and then the question of the double long lap penalty only resolved in court. From a certain point of view, Marc's 2023 will start tomorrow.
"I'm happy to be here again - said Marquez - but I can't expect too much from this weekend. I haven't ridden any bike for over a month, step by step I'll try to get back in a good rhythm, this will be my goal this weekend. Then I will try to rebuild my physical condition in the next few weeks, because as you know I had a hand injury and when that happens it's difficult to think of being able to train well in the gym to try to keep the same athletic condition as in Portimao. But anyway I will also try to work for my team, for Honda, because I also missed the test in Jerez which was very important. I will try to test some things here and unfortunately for us it seems that the weather conditions here are not perfect. I will try to do my best to finish the race weekend in the best possible way".
You started the season well, now where do you think you are?
"Last winter was the first for many years without physical problems for me. I had prepared well, I felt really good. I had suffered in tests, in free practice. But then when the time came to qualify, I was ahead and also in the Sprint Race I was there, now I'm in a different situation. Also in the race I felt strong, but unfortunately what happened happened and I found myself injured again. Mentally I felt ready, it's never easy when these things happen but the important thing is to keep your routine. Work to get back as soon as possible and get back into the rhythm quickly."
At least you won't have to serve the double long lap penalty.
"For me it's normal. When I received that penalty, the rules… now they have changed. I went to the stewards and I completely agreed to receive it because it was a big mistake. But what I received was for Argentina, it was written there on the paper, and I signed. I asked the Stewards again ‘is it for Argentina?’ They said yes. I had surgery. Then, for some reason, after two days, somebody changed it. I don’t know who, but it’s not my fault. Believe me, the worst penalty was to be at home for three races.”
Tell us why you think the new system might not work?
“Now, it looks like it is changed to ‘the next race that you will race’, if you don’t get injured. It’s not the best solution. Because we will take more risks. Already in the past we had some situations - for example Marini in Moto2 did it and it’s normal - it will create that the riders will force more to come back. And it will create a bad image. Because the riders will make the penalty and then stop in the box. This, we need to avoid. So they need to think about another strategy. I am not the boss of the FIM, the boss is the one who needs to fix everything.”
Do you plan to test the Kalex chassis tomorrow?
"Yes, I'll have to try it and I agree with this. I should have tried it in Jerez obviously and I already know that this is certainly not the best way to get a good result in the GP, because when you try so many different things you get lost. But we have to do it, because after that we'll have a three-week break in which the engineers can work, and so I'll try it tomorrow in FP1 if the weather is good."
Have you talked to Bradl about the new chassis?
"With him and with Mir, every rider has his own feeling, but I'm not so much interested in what one feels as if he's faster. If the times improve then I'll use it, otherwise not."
Is Honda doing what you asked for?
"It’s reacting, it’s bringing some new things, like in the Jerez tests. Some worked, some didn't, but that's normal. We've seen that on a favourable circuit, like Austin, Rins achieved a good result, we must all continue to work together to improve for 2024".
Lorenzo said that you are a rider who is never afraid. Do you think so?
"I don't feel like one who feels afraid, but in general this is something that can represent a strong point as well as a weak one. I think experience is needed, because in some moments, like now in this comeback, I have tried to make use of the experience gained when I hurt my arm. Not to be more conservative or to have a different mentality. I've had three medical teams follow me, I've always compared everyone's opinions. But my mentality, my DNA always remain the same. If I race here, it's to attack and not defend."
Wouldn’t you prefer to work on the bike?
"Logically yes, especially this weekend. But I'll also try to get the maximum, one thing doesn't exclude the other. As we saw in Jerez, all the Honda riders suffered, so we have to keep working. But we all want to win , if Mir crashed 4 times in one weekend it's because he wants to win".
Do you think some riders will object to the fact that you don't have to serve the penalty?
"I don't think so. Nobody can say too much about it. In general, when you say too much about what happens to another rider, then the same thing happens to you in the following GP. We ride to the limit, we make mistakes and sometimes you're alone, in other six with other riders. There are different situations that we always face and when you run at the top for 15 years you already know that certain things can happen. Nobody wants to crash, nobody wants to get hurt. But sometimes we don't choose what happens. As for the penalty, I've already served it. It was in Argentina, as written on paper. Now everything will change, but that was the rule at the time."
Don't you think someone was waiting for an opportunity to attack you?
"It's easy to do it when someone is in trouble, you have to accept it. It doesn't matter to me, I've seen it all in my career. I learned that in Moto2, in Jerez Cluzel knocked me to the ground, I was angry, but in the box they told me not to say anything, because it could have happened to me too. In fact, in the next GP, I knocked Redding down. Races are like this: nobody wants to crash, get injured, make mistakes, but it happens. In the first few races of this year a lot has happened, but no one has done anything intentionally."