The six-time MotoGP world champion guided his radically revised 2022 Honda to third on the grid in Saturday’s first qualifying session of the season at the Losail International Circuit.
Marquez said pre-weekend that he wouldn’t be able to fight for victory in Qatar and echoed this on Saturday, despite showing strong race pace in FP4.
While he believes he has the potential to fight for the podium, Marquez says his main goal “is to understand 22 laps in a row” on the new Honda.
“For me, the most important thing was FP4, where I ride alone, I had a consistent pace, the lap time was coming in a good way,” he said.
“So, let’s see tomorrow. It’s true that we need to manage many factors; it’s the first race, the tyres, fuel, the track, all these things.
“But the butterflies in the stomach will be there, so let’s see how we can manage.
“This morning I was still too far from the top guys, but this afternoon I was very close.
“This is enough for me and I’m happy with that pace because it’s true that I’m not the fastest guy out there but I can fight for top positions – not for winning.
“It depends on the conditions because, for example, Suzuki was fast all weekend and tonight struggled a lot, but tomorrow will be different.
“My main challenge is to understand 22 laps in a row. I feel OK, I don’t feel pain, so this is something that makes me happy.”
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: Akhil Puthiyedath
Marquez says he is still having trouble understanding where the limit is on the front end of the new Honda and has noted that overriding the bike is leading him to slower lap times.
“If you see, I didn’t crash this weekend,” he added. “Normally I crash one time in the practice.
“But this is something, this bike is riding in a different way.
“It’s true that if you want to override, then sometimes you are slower.
“So, sometimes in the qualifying practice it’s difficult to understand where the limit is.
“For example, in my fastest lap I rode [sectors one and two] in a smooth way and I was fast, T3 I feel like I could push more and I overrode and I was slower, I did a mistake.
“So, still it’s tricky to understand the way to go into the corner. Mid-corner and exiting is much better than the previous years.”