Pol Espargaro (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) and Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team Honda RC213V) will start tomorrow’s Catalan Grand Prix from 12th and 13th on the grid after a challenging day at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit.
Espargaro was on course for a place on the second row of the grid when he slid off his RC213V four corners from the chequered flag in the closing stages of the Q2 session.
The two locals – Espargaro was born within earshot of the circuit and Marquez lives an 80-minute ride away – are working hard to extract the maximum from their RC213V machines around this very slippery circuit.
Marquez went well in the FP4 race-pace session, producing the sixth fastest lap, two places in front of his team-mate.
After FP4 the pair commenced qualifying in the opening Q1 session, aiming to finish the 15-minute outing inside the top two to graduate into Q2. Both men employed the same strategy, chasing a rival with the aim of bettering their own lap times. Marquez took position behind Australian rider Jack Miller, while Espargaro slotted in behind both of them. The tactic worked better for Espargaro, who finished second to Miller in the session, while Marquez missing promotion to Q2 by just 0.011 seconds.
Espargaro rode brilliantly in Q2, riding the fastest Sector Three time on his way to what should have been a second-row start, only to slide off at Turn Ten on his fastest lap. The tumble was a huge disappointment for the 29-year-old Spaniard, who looked set for his best qualifying performance of the year so far.
Marquez is still very much compromised by his right-arm injury, which kept him out of MotoGP for nine months, before his comeback in Portugal in April. He is currently unable to use his usually aggressive riding technique in right-hand corners, most crucially Turns Three, Four, 13 and 14 here, which are all vital to a good lap time.
Marquez fully understands his current physical circumstances. He knows he has to accept the fact that he isn’t able to ride at his usual speed, so he has to be patient, working at rebuilding the muscles in his right arm until he is strong enough to ride in the way that brought him and Honda six MotoGP World Championships in seven years.
Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU Honda RC213V) finished fourth in Q1, right behind Espargaro and Marquez, so he will start the race from 14th, alongside Marquez. Like many riders here the 29-year-old from Chiba is struggling with a lack of grip which creates a huge challenge for riders of incredibly powerful MotoGP machines.
Alex Marquez (LCR Honda CASTROL Honda RC213V) is working to regain confidence after a difficult few races. The 24-year-old Spaniard ended qualifying 20th today and will focus on delivering a better race pace tomorrow, the seventh race of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship.
After tomorrow’s race – which starts at the earlier-than-usual time of 13:00 local time – riders and teams remain at the circuit for a one-day test on Monday. The 2021 season continues with the German Grand Prix on 20 June and the Dutch TT on 27 June.