New aerodynamics, but the same (old) problems for Marc Marquez and the entire Honda HRC crew in Friday’s free practice at the Red Bull Ring. The Tokyo manufacturer has introduced some technical innovations to try to make the harsh RC123V more competitive and satisfy the requests of its riders, especially those of the Catalan. Instead, at the end of today's day the champion from Cervera didn't go any better than eighteenth fastest and in tomorrow morning's official qualifying he will be forced to go through the trap of Q1.
None of the Honda riders gained direct access to the decisive Q2 session, even though in the specific case of the eight-time world champion the time available was mainly used to discover the new items on the bike: “It was a very demanding day on the mental side – said the number 93 - because, with this new aero, the way to ride the bike is completely different. I got used to the Honda for many, many years and especially last year and the first part of the season. And now with this aero, it was completely different.”
“I adapted to it quite quickly, more than I expected - he said continuing his analysis - certainly the level of performance is similar. The weaknesses in the end are the same, I keep losing time at the same point and we must keep working. The problem continues to be a lack of stability, it is difficult to stop the bike on both wheels. Even out of the corners, grip and traction are still poor. In that sense the tougher compound brought here is worse for us."
Although the story hasn't changed, Marquez remains confident: “The positive thing is that we're already at a similar or slightly better level than other aerodynamic components we've tested in the past. Now we must study this new way with a lot of downforce at the front to see if we can progress a little at a time. We will then have to verify that the improvement is tangible in view of the Barcelona and Misano GPs to give the engineers the necessary information".
Changing course is not easy either for Honda or for Marquez. Both sides are working hard so that they can go back to fighting for the positions that count in the standings. To succeed, a union of intents is needed, starting with the HRC team manager Alberto Puig who was caught chatting with Marc in the afternoon: "Alberto is the first to worry about my physical condition and to know what situation we're in. He is very realistic about the current level of the project. In that conversation he warned me to be careful because I was braking too late. It seems that on television I was seen at the limit. In fact, I was going to the limit, but it seems that also from the outside you could see it. I thanked him, it's nice that the team manager makes you think. I tried, but I didn't exaggerate, he's right."
Returning to focus on the performance today, he said: “What will change if I’m in Q2 or not? Sunday's result won't change much. I took a risk at the last start with used tyres, and I started taking more risks than necessary by staying behind Quartararo. And then with the two new tyres. For the rest, I've always been around eighteenth position, I didn't take any risks, at least until then".
The day was enriched (negatively) by the umpteenth crash of the season during the morning session, fortunately without reporting any physical consequences: “It happened due to laziness, if I had gone long, I would have had to go to the end of the track. I wanted to go fast to get back on track, unfortunately the bike ended up in the gravel. I tried not to make crashes, which can decrease confidence. Tomorrow we will have to take some risks in Q1, I'm sure we won't have a good starting position in the race."