Reigning MotoGP champion Marc Marquez set off like a missile, relative to the other riders, during the opening laps of Sunday’s Argentina Grand Prix.
Unfortunately, his trajectory came to a similarly abrupt conclusion when he lost the front of his Repsol Honda and crashed out of first on lap 4.
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“I was on the braking point for turn two, with not many degrees of banking, but I locked the front and crashed. It doesn’t matter where, when or how, the final result is zero points,” Marquez said.
“It was just my mistake. Of course I’m really disappointed with myself because I already said in Qatar – and I will say again now – mistakes at the start of the season penalise you quite a lot. It was completely my mistake and just sorry to the team and sorry to Honda.
“We are human and we must understand why and think now about the next race.”
The reigning champion had been holding a 2.248s lead, prompting many to question if he was pushing too hard. But his advantage had been built on laps 1 and 2, with Marquez’s pace matched by eventual winner Maverick Vinales by lap 3.
“The [lead] surprised me for one reason; because I was not extremely fast,” Marquez explained. “I was riding in ‘40.0-‘39.8. Normally we go out and we already stay there. I was not riding ‘39.5-‘39.0.
“So it surprised me, but then after three-four laps the others also came into the ‘39.8-’40 low. That was the rhythm of the race. I was leading by two-seconds and people can think, ‘he was pushing too much’. But I was not pushing a lot. I was riding on the good lap times.”
Like the rest of the Hondas, Marquez was using the hard front tyre. The Yamahas of Vinales and Valentino Rossi, who went on to finish one-two, were able to run the medium.
“We always need to go to the hard front tyre to brake well, to have stability, and this is something that can penalise you a bit in the race because you take more risk,” Marquez said. “But in the end all Honda riders that want to stay there go to the hard; me, Crutchlow and Dani. Me and Dani crashed, Crutchlow stayed on the bike and was on the podium.”
Risking the hard front was exactly what Marquez didn’t do at the opening round in Qatar. It was a decision he had soon regretted as he was forced into a defensive ride for fourth, on a tyre that soon lost grip under the stress of hard braking.
“In Qatar we went the safe way and we were penalised because I wasn’t able to attack. Here we plan to take the risk. But in the end, no excuses, it was my mistake and I must learn from this and try to improve for the future.”
Marquez admitted that if they could improve the RC213V’s ongoing acceleration issues, it would take the lap-time emphasis away from braking.
“The positive thing is that with all the problems we have, we are there fighting for victories… We must still work on acceleration, because if we gain time on the exit of the corner then it will be easier also on the brake point.”
Marquez’s accident denied fans the chance to him go head-to-head with Vinales and means he has failed to win one of the opening two rounds of the season for the first time in his MotoGP career. More significantly, it already puts him 37 points behind Vinales, who has scored a perfect 50 from his two Yamaha appearances.
“Not only Maverick, also Valentino; in practice he is not there, but in the race both Yamaha riders are really strong,” Marquez said of his 2017 rivals. “They have a really good package, they are very consistent. We need to work together with Honda to find a better way to improve out results.”
Honda has switched to a ‘big bang’-style engine for 2017, which is usually credited with calming the power delivery at the expense of outright performance. Yet Crutchlow suggested the new engine is currently even more difficult to ride than last year’s ‘screamer’.
“I do not agree. It’s different to ride… But it’s true that we are still learning and working. You saw we started this weekend really far and then step-by-step we arrived close by the warm-up. It will be a little bit this way for these first races,” Marquez said.
“We knew in the pre-season, because it is a new character engine and we must understand the electronic base. Still this is the point where we are struggling more. I think the bike has good potential but we must find the way.