Pol Espargarò is probably in the most delicate moment of his MotoGP career. His debut season on the Honda didn’t quite go as hoped, the Spaniard struggling a lot with a bike that was difficult to interpret. Many thought that Pol’s customization would be easier since it’s from KTM and a technical layout somewhat similar to HRC’s.
Facts have belied that idea, however, and now Espargarò must prove he can make amends to hope to be confirmed with Honda in the future. There will be little time for the Spaniard to do so as talks have already started on contracts for 2023 and it’s no secret that Honda are targeting another top rider alongside Marc Marquez. Joan Mir looks like the number one contender, but Pol can still prove he deserves the bike that has historically dominated in the hands of Marquez. Winter testing and the very first races of the season will no doubt be fundamental to his future, but he really liked the Honda prototype that was brought to Jerez and is convinced he can take a completely different path in 2022.
“You have to take things as they come,” said Pol. “We worked hard to improve the situation, but everyone did it, including the other teams. We collected a lot of information to lay the basis for 2022. I felt good after Silverstone, I started to feel safe with the bike and I wanted to end the season with a great race in Valencia and I think I would have, it’s my favorite track. Then I crashed and the plan went awry. This pre-season was different for me, I worked to become a better driver. Honda have been working to give us the best in Malaysia, I can’t wait to get back on the bike.”
Pol Espargarò: “Marc is a motorcycle genius but the new bike will help everyone”
Do you think the new bike is less focused on Marc’s needs and easier for all Honda riders?
“Firstly, I don’t think the old bike was built just for Marc to take full advantage of. It was based on the drivers’ comments saying a few things, and the engineers used those comments to improve it. Marc was a genius on the old bike and he still is for the way he rides it. Because the way he rides it is simply the best, it is not a bike that is less suitable for others. He’s strong, that’s the way it is. The new bike looks different, it has more grip at the rear. At Misano we all felt better, Honda listened to all of us and when they brought us the new bike it immediately seemed better. Throughout the year we all complained about various issues that didn’t allow us to be fast all the time. We were all happy with the changes made, but as I said, this is just the beginning. We need to take it to other tracks to understand how much it has improved and how fast it is like it was at Misano and Jerez. If there is something new, you have to keep calm, because the situation can change very quickly. Having Marc with us for winter testing will be essential for us to have the best possible bike at the start of the season. “
Your 2021 was not easy, but what are your goals now?
“Early in 2021 I knew I had to work to improve, but I didn’t know the bike well and didn’t know in which direction to develop. I knew it would take time. With only 5 days of testing, it wasn’t easy to improve before the start of the season. It was tough but in the end I can say I have high expectations for 2022. If the tests go well, I think I can fight for the top 5 right away. If we can do that at the beginning, it will get better and better as the season progresses. I want to start from where I was before the crash in Valencia. “
Do you think the new bike is objectively better?
“The bike is better, but it’s too early to understand by how much. We need to get back on track with the others to understand where we stand, we are not the only ones bringing a new bike to the track.” We will understand that in Malaysia when there are the first comparisons with our competitors. We have to work on that and in the first few days we will understand everything, even if we won’t be at the top right away. I think if we have the pace to fight at the front straight away we’ll make it, otherwise we need rest to improve. The Ducati is very strong on the straights, if we want to have a good season we have to improve on the straights to be able to race with them and not be passed all the time. Everything will be important but we have to stay calm and see what happens in the next tests. “
Pol Espargarò: “It’s not easy being in the garage with Marc, but I’ve learned so many things”
It will be your second season in the garage with Marc, how much did you learn from him in 2021?
“I hope to ride more with Marc this year and start the season together. Being by his side in the garage isn’t easy. He rides and adapts more easily to low grip and any problem, his experience on the bike helps and he adapts very well. Initially I had a lot of trouble driving it, accelerating it without skidding too much. That’s important for the way he drives, how he accelerates. It handles the throttle in corners in a unique way, getting the bike out of the corners. Something I’m learning the same way, I’ve been working hard on it. Even though the new bike is different, it has more grip and I think it will help us all to improve. I think that will help us especially in qualifying. We’ll all be able to show what we can do with the new bike. “
How much has your approach changed this winter?
“Mentally, I haven’t changed much. Even with a lot of pressure, I’ve persevered, I’ve been fine. Physically, I’ve trained more than is necessary to ride in MotoGP. I don’t think that’s my problem. Technically, I discovered how to use the throttle and the importance of doing it differently. On the Honda I couldn’t even use the rear brake like I’ve always done in the past. I couldn’t do that in 2021 and suffered a lot when entering the corners. I’ve trained differently, done different disciplines to better handle these things and used many different types of bikes.”