Pol Espargaro "wasn't ready" for Honda MotoGP debut

Pol Espargaro admits the lack of pre-season testing in 2021 meant he came into the Qatar Grand Prix opener in March “not ready” for his Honda debut.

Listen to this article

The 2013 Moto2 world champion made a shock switch from KTM to the factory Honda squad for 2021, but found the transition immensely difficult.

With COVID-19 forcing pre-season testing to be cut down to just five days in Qatar before the first two races of the year at Losail, Espargaro was left playing catch-up for most of the campaign.

The 2021 Honda lacked rear grip, which caused issues for its riders exiting corners as well as into them – Espargaro unable to utilise his normal braking style of using the rear brake as a result.

Several post-race tests during the season allowed him to make some headway, with Espargaro scoring pole at Silverstone and claiming his best-ever MotoGP result of second at the Emilia Romagna GP to complete Honda's first 1-2 behind Marc Marquez since 2017.

Reflecting on his first season as a Honda rider, Espargaro admits he started it really on the back foot, but felt tangible progress had been made on the bike on the run in to the end of the year.

"Basically, the experience in MotoGP is half of the way – it's super-important," Espargaro said.

"And especially when you are changing bikes, the level now in MotoGP is fantastic, it's super, super high.

"So, you have no time to say you are adapting, or you have no time to test, you have not so much testing now.

"We went into the first race in Qatar not ready, actually, with a few a laps in Qatar [testing] and a few laps on the bike.

"So, definitely I was not ready. Then I needed to discover how to ride the bike during the race weekends, which is very, very difficult because you have all the pressure, you want to perform well, you have crashes, you have no time to work on the bike.

Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team

Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

"So, we needed to use the small tests as a very important test for us, and through the year these tests – especially from the middle of the year to the end – we really improved the bike, we really improved our set-up and I started to feel much better on the bike.

"Sure, if we could have this experience at the beginning of the year, like if the race in Portimao [the Algarve GP] was the first race, the year would have been much easier and different.

"But in the end it is what it is, we can't go back in time. We need to take it.

"What was good is we ended with a pole position and a podium, we fought for top five positions in the last races and this is something great."

Espargaro ended the year 12th in the standings on 100 points – 42 adrift of Marc Marquez, who missed four races through injury and crashed out of four others.

After the two-day post-season Jerez test, Espargaro – who was still battered from a violent crash which ruled him out of the Valencia finale – was positive about the steps Honda had taken with its 2022 bike, noting that the updated RC213V had regained that missing rear grip.

shares
comments
The Rossi-less future MotoGP must now navigate
Previous article

The Rossi-less future MotoGP must now navigate

Next article

Binder: 2021 MotoGP season was an extended rookie campaign

Binder: 2021 MotoGP season was an extended rookie campaign
The other Suzuki signing that could transform Honda's MotoGP form Prime

The other Suzuki signing that could transform Honda's MotoGP form

Following Suzuki's decision to quit MotoGP, both of its former riders have landed at Honda for 2023. But perhaps its biggest signing from the now-defunct team could instead be a highly-rated technical manager. Is Ken Kawauchi the right man at the right time to steer HRC back to glory?

MotoGP
Jan 26, 2023
How the MotoGP paddock has offered refuge to Suzuki's former team Prime

How the MotoGP paddock has offered refuge to Suzuki's former team

Suzuki's unexpected departure left more than 40 professionals virtually jobless for the 2023 MotoGP season. But that human drama has been successfully corrected by the paddock itself, with most former Suzuki crew members absorbed into other operations.

MotoGP
Jan 14, 2023
How one MotoGP team went from title challengers to losing it all in four years Prime

How one MotoGP team went from title challengers to losing it all in four years

The Petronas Sepang Racing Team came into MotoGP with a bang in 2019 as regular front-runners, with wonder rookie Fabio Quartararo mounting a title challenge in 2020. But it all went wrong for the Razlan Razali-helmed squad as the team changed hands and tumbled down the order - and RNF Racing plans to right this in 2023

MotoGP
Jan 3, 2023
Is Marc Marquez ready to reclaim his MotoGP throne? Prime

Is Marc Marquez ready to reclaim his MotoGP throne?

Marc Marquez’s sixth premier MotoGP title seems a long time ago given the injury woes he has faced in the three years since. At the end of a fraught 2022, in which he had a fourth major operation on his right arm, the Spaniard speaks exclusively to Motorsport.com.

MotoGP
Dec 23, 2022
How MotoGP's underachiever is working to reverse its fortunes in 2023 Prime

How MotoGP's underachiever is working to reverse its fortunes in 2023

As European manufacturers emerged as the strongest force in 2022 in a changing of the guard for MotoGP, one powerhouse couldn’t quite match the feats of Ducati and Aprilia. Its motorsport chief tells Motorsport.com why this is and what it is doing to become a consistent frontrunner in the class of kings

MotoGP
Dec 20, 2022
How MotoGP riders are preparing for the physical stress of sprint races Prime

How MotoGP riders are preparing for the physical stress of sprint races

With the expansion of the calendar to 21 grands prix and the introduction of sprint races, the 2023 MotoGP season will take the riders to almost 1,300 kilometres of more competition than this year, a factor that forces adjustments in their physical preparations.

MotoGP
Dec 9, 2022
Luca Marini: Why he's more than just Valentino Rossi's brother Prime

Luca Marini: Why he's more than just Valentino Rossi's brother

Surname pressure is something many have had to deal with in their motorsport careers. And while Luca Marini doesn’t have that, his familial relation and the team he rides for in MotoGP have cast a brighter spotlight on his progress. But, as he has shown in 2022 – and as he reveals to Motorsport.com – Marini is so much more than just the brother of a legend.

MotoGP
Dec 6, 2022
Ranking the top 10 MotoGP riders of 2022 Prime

Ranking the top 10 MotoGP riders of 2022

The 2022 MotoGP season was another hotly contested championship, with Francesco Bagnaia emerging as the title winner after the campaign went to the wire. Motorsport.com picks out the 10 best performers of the season

MotoGP
Nov 29, 2022