Honda MotoGP team boss Alberto Puig believes Marc Marquez’s comeback from injury has been underestimated, insisting “only one guy can do” what Marquez has been doing.
Six-time premier-class champion Marquez hasn’t had the easiest time since making his MotoGP comeback from the right arm injury that ruled him out of most of the 2020 season.
In the seven races since his return, the Spaniard picked up a victory at his traditional stronghold, German Grand Prix venue Sachsenring, but that had been preceded by four crashes in three races.
Marquez has not felt at full fitness in that time, suffering from a lack of strength in not just his right arm but the previously operated on right shoulder, while he also took a big hit in a monster crash at Assen, which contributed to a career-worst qualifying but didn’t prevent him from a big charge from 20th to seventh on the Sunday.
“I think for a while some people forgot about who is Marc Marquez,” Puig told MotoGP.com ahead of the series’ current summer break.
“I’m not a guy who reads a lot, these newspapers and news, I’m not so much interested. But from what I hear from our press manager, there have been strange comments in the past regarding his comeback, his possibilities.
“I don’t know if people really understand the level of the rider that he is.
“Marc’s comeback has been more difficult than expected, due to the injury and what happened, and what he’s doing currently in his situation, it’s really amazing. Because he’s riding with, I will not say one arm but let’s say with one and a half arms.”
Puig has his own previous experience with career-altering injuries, having had his momentum as a 500cc rider snuffed out by a brutal impact against the barriers in a high-speed Le Mans crash in 1995 – a few weekends on from what would end up his sole premier-class win.
Spending “nearly four months in hospital in Barcelona”, he returned to racing the following year but, save for a one-off return to the podium, never recaptured his previous form.
“My level was not anymore there,” Puig would admit later, and he wound up retiring at the end of 1997.
“He’s clearly not 100% fit,” Puig continued of Marquez. “I think only one guy can do this, and it’s him.
“Not talking as the Honda team manager, talking as a rider that I was in the past, I think his potential is clearly far from the rest.”
With MotoGP now in its summer break ahead of its return in early August, Marquez is having what he had described as his first holiday “in two years” – having had surgeries on both of his shoulders in back-to-back off-seasons before his arduous recovery from the right arm fracture.
“And then I will have time to keep working – my plan, if the arm allows, I would like to ride more with a motorbike, because at the moment just I go race by race, and my plan is to ride more days before Austria, and introduce a lot of bikes in my physical training,” he explained.
While Marquez’s German GP win has been a high point, there has been little else for Honda to celebrate, with new signing Pol Espargaro still struggling to adapt to the RC213V and only intermittent flashes of form from the satellite LCR team.
Puig said Honda has no choice but to improve for the rest of the campaign.
“You don’t have many options, you must improve, and this is what we are trying,” he added. “So, yes, we will improve the bike and the riders will improve also.”