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MotoGP, Santi Hernandez: "Marquez is more mature than before, Mir surprised me."

Says Marc's former crew chief: "I'm not surprised by his adaptation to the Ducati, he's taking the right steps and just needs to win a race to get even more confidence. I thought Joan was serious and introverted, instead he has an open mind."

MotoGP: Santi Hernandez:

Marc Marquez's move to Team Gresini has not only ended his tenure with Honda, but also the association that bound the Cervera-born champion to his longtime crew chief Santi Hernandez. In fact, the working paths of the two Spaniards parted after 11 seasons and seven World Championship titles won together, between Moto2 and MotoGP. A big change that has not undermined the friendship between the two, who have now become rivals, and that has led Hernandez to continue his career in the Repsol Honda team flanking Joan Mir, in what is the Mallorcan's second season in the colours of the Tokyo-based manufacturer. A year that is once again proving to be a complex one for the Japanese squad, but one that has also provided some pleasant surprises for Santi.

"It's true that I've only worked with one rider, Marc, although from time to time I've worked with others, and it's normal that the first day was a bit strange, but I must say that I was positively surprised to work with Joan ," admitted the crew chief, in a lengthy interview granted to Relevo over the weekend at Le Mans. "Last year I got to know him from the other side of the pit and I saw him as a very introverted guy, very serious, not very communicative. That was the perception I had from the outside, and I was surprised to find a very open guy, who is very available. Above all, I was surprised by his willingness to listen, to try things that we have told him many times to try on the bike with the experience we have with Marc. He has an open mind. Whether it works or not that is another matter, but he is open to try anything we can help him do."

Always referring to Joan's change, he then added, "I don't know if he feels different now from last year. It is true that Marc was the project leader, whereas now he is the veteran and that gives you some freedom in doing what you believe or taking the path you think. But I cannot compare them because we do the same things we did with Marc. It could also be that a more introverted person finds it more difficult to express himself in another language, and doing it in his own language maybe helped him. The important thing is that at the end of the year Joan says that working with us was a success and that we did well. Because it's like when you find a girlfriend: it's all wonderful at first, but you really see if you like her or not, and if it works, when you've been with her for a year."

While Mir's attitude proved to be a nice discovery, what did not surprise Hernandez was Marc's adaptation to the Ducati GP23.

"I'm not surprised," he acknowledged, "I could say I thought it would take him longer, but I'm not going to lie. It was clear that, like any rider, he would need a period of adaptation to the new bike. I see Marc as even more mature than when I was with him. From what I see on TV when I go home and watch the races, I see how he handles things and I think he is working very well. Regardless of the crashes, which are always there, how he handles practice and races, how he rides, he is taking the right steps and I think what he needs is to finish a race by winning. That will give him more confidence and self-assurance, but he should not be obsessed with it. I think his goal is to have fun and he is succeeding. We saw him on the podium in Jerez: it's been a long time since we've seen a Marc so entertained, smiling and happy, finishing second."

Combining friendship with rivalry on the track is not always easy, but Santi assures that Marc's change of strip has not ruined the relationship between the two of them.

"It is clear that Marc and I are friends, I say it openly. We call each other from time to time, but more to tell each other our personal things as friends than to talk about work. He is very professional, he has always shown that. Now he is in another team, working on another project, but we respect each other on a professional level, as we always have," continued the technician, who did not shy away when asked to comment on the contact between the eight-time world champion and Mir that took valuable points away from the Mallorcan in the Jerez Sprint Race: "We could have finished in a good position and the contact with Marc made us lose positions. Was Marc looking for the result? Yes, I understand that, but it made me angry. These things happen, but my team is Honda, Joan is my rider and I defend my colours."

Rising from the crisis into which it has plunged since the pandemic is proving to be a daunting task for Honda, which seems even more in trouble than last season, but Hernandez has confidence in his team and is counting on the reaction of the Japanese manufacturer, which continues to work hard to turn things around.

"Honda is a brand that does not like to be where it is and is working very hard. But you have to understand that in a project like a MotoGP bike, the changes that have to be made, unless they are things that are suddenly discovered, take at least six or seven months. We saw it with KTM, with Aprilia, with Ducati, until they found the key. And then you build from there," Santi concluded, "Honda is trying to figure out the main problem we have and solve it and then, from there, start building. I am not saying they are working harder than ever, because that would be like saying they worked less last year. Maybe you can see that there is more movement, but it is because the results are not coming. It is not the same when you are fighting for a championship and when you are fighting to improve and get into the Top 10."

 

Translated by Julian Thomas

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