Honda has radically re-designed its RC213V for the 2022 season following two difficult years for the Japanese manufacturer in 2020 – which was its first winless campaign ever since it returned to MotoGP full-time in 1982 – and 2021.
Though it managed three wins last year courtesy of a still-recovering Marc Marquez, Honda still ended the year 143 points shy of constructors’ champions Ducati in fourth in the standings.
Espargaro managed just one podium and one pole position in a tough first season with Honda in 2021 having switched from KTM, with all RC213V riders hampered by the problems caused from a lack of rear grip.
The Spaniard was particularly hindered by having just five days of testing on the RC213V, all in Qatar, before starting the season – leading to him admitting at the end of 2021 that he “wasn’t ready” for the first race.
Pre-season testing in 2022 will only consist of five days for non-rookies spread across Sepang and the new Mandalika track in Indonesia.
At the two-day post-season test at Jerez in November, Honda’s 2022 prototype was met with praise from its riders – but Espargaro admits it’s still to early to say how much better it is compared to its predecessor.
“The bike is better, but it’s still too early to talk about how much it is better because first of all the thing is we need to put the bike on track together with the other bikes to see where we are,” he said last week at Honda’s 2022 launch presentation.
“We are not the only ones playing this game, and we are not the only ones putting a new bike on the track.
“Everyone is doing the same and everyone is going to do a step up, so how good the bike is going to be we will see in a few days in Malaysia together with the other bikes.
Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“It’s no sense saying the bike is much better if we are two tenths quicker and the rest are half a second quicker.
“So, it’s something that we need to keep working on, and then we are going to see in the first races of the year – even if in the first races we are not on top, this doesn’t mean anything.
“The new bike takes time. Unluckily we have just five days of testing, which I think is enough, but if not it’s no panic.
“We are going to have the chance to improve the bike having the four riders of the factory at full performance means the bike is going to be much better sooner.”
While more rear grip has been the main request for Honda riders – and which has seemingly been delivered with the 2022 prototype – Espargaro notes the bike needs more horsepower also to match Ducati.
“What we ask for, the grip was something important for all of us, but also we have seen in the past years the Ducati is super strong on the straights,” he added.
“It’s the key to overtake and the key to fight for the races.
“So, if we want to do a good season this year, more Ducatis are going to be on the grid, so it means we need to be faster on the straights to try to fight with them to get positions back or even to defend them.
“Everything is important, everything matters. The way is good but we need to remain calm.”