For Marc Márquez, the 2022 MotoGP season, which starts this weekend, has been off to a good start so far. In the course of the four free practice sessions and qualifying for the Qatar Grand Prix, the Honda works driver has not yet suffered a fall. He will start Sunday’s race from third place on the grid after starting the weekend on Friday with P2 in the day’s classification.
One of the key takeaways for Márquez at the Qatar weekend is his current physical condition after two injury-plagued years. “Being able to have a race weekend again where I don’t have to worry about my physical condition is like a different life,” beams Márquez. Already on Friday, the Spaniard remarked with satisfaction that his physical condition “is not a problem in any way”.
In a sporty manner, Márquez drove into the front row of the grid in Qatar qualifying on Saturday, after even leading the Q2 classification at times. After the first attempt, he was fastest, which was not least due to a slipstream from Ducati rider Francesco Bagnaia. “It was very windy in qualifying and it was important to have someone as a reference. I did that,” said the Honda driver.
Márquez was able to improve on his second attempt, but missed pole by 0.272 seconds. What gives him even more hope than his speed for a flying lap is his race-set pace shown in the FT4. At this point, Marquez still had doubts on Friday. On Saturday evening, he doesn’t want to talk about victory for Sunday, but thinks he has a good chance of a podium finish.
“The most important thing for me was the fourth free practice session, when I was on my own. I had a constant pace and the lap time came without any major problems. Now we’ll have to wait and see how things go tomorrow. But the butterflies in my stomach are back.” , rejoices the long-suffering ex-world champion.
Marquez already has the Qatar race in his head
“It’s true that I’m not the fastest with my pace. But I think I can fight for the front places, even if not for victory,” says Márquez, going through the 22 race laps in his head.
“It will be decisive who leads the race,” said Márquez in the press conference after qualifying, speaking for pole setter Jorge Martin, second fastest Enea Bastianini and himself when he said: “The three of us here are not the ones with the fastest race pace. The guys with the best pace start from the back, so the pace in the race will depend on who’s in front, and that will affect whether a bigger or smaller lead group forms.”
Apart from that, Márquez is already looking further ahead than just Sunday: “The most important thing will be to maintain consistency. The season is very long. This track here has always been difficult for us. This time it’s going well so far. But the race has to yet to be driven.”
Pol Espargaro starts the season with his best feeling yet
Not only for Marc Márquez, but also for Honda teammate Pol Espargaro, the first qualifying of the new MotoGP season was encouraging. He starts sixth from the second row. That puts him three positions behind Marquez, despite being just 63 thousandths of a second slower. In the FT4 before qualifying, Espargaro had shown an even stronger race pace than Márquez.
When asked if he currently has the best feeling he’s ever had before the start of a MotoGP season, Espargaro replies: “Yes, definitely. So far I’ve never had the pace to go for the podium or even the I’m in the running for a win. Now I’m starting from the second row here. Of course, a lot can still happen, whether it’s a technical problem or a human error. But I really feel like we can have a serious say tomorrow.”