Marc Márquez' absence has left a gaping hole in MotoGP for the last seven months. Sure, the racing has been fantastic, and Joan Mir was a worthy winner of the 2020 title. But the fact that the man who won six of the last eight championships was missing from the series was the elephant in the room throughout last season, a presence noted all the more for his not being there.
The significance of Márquez' absence has been made all the greater by the near total radio silence out of the Spaniard's entourage. With the exception of a single interview given to Spanish TV broadcaster DAZN, the only thing that we have heard from Marc Márquez have been leaks from various sources around him.
The last time the general media had a chance to speak to the six-time MotoGP champion was last July, at the second round at Jerez, after his abortive comeback from the injury sustained in the first race. Márquez shattered the humerus in his right upper arm when he crashed out between Turns 3 and 4 at the opening MotoGP race of the season at Jerez. Márquez was doing push ups just hours after surgery, and decided to try to race at the Andalusian Grand Prix at Jerez, just a few days later.
Márquez would come to regret that decision. He rode on Saturday, but was forced to give up when he felt something shift in his arm, and he lost the strength to control a MotoGP machine. Then, a week later, the plate holding his humerus together broke from the strain of trying to open a heavy glass French window. Two operations followed, one to replace the broken plate, and another to replace the second plate, treat an infection in the humerus and insert material to promote bone growth.
Though rumors of an imminent return abounded throughout his absence, Márquez did not come back to racing in 2020. And indeed, it is far from certain that he will be ready at the first race in Qatar, though that remains his objective.
After the online launch of the Repsol Honda MotoGP Team for 2021, the general media finally had a chance to speak directly to Márquez. The Spaniard was open and direct, though there were still some things left unsaid, in part due to a lack of time. So what did we learn from what Marc Márquez told us? And what did we learn from what he didn't say?
The bigger pictures
The most important lesson Márquez learned from all this is a sense of perspective. "I learned a few things," the Repsol Honda rider responded when asked. "One of them is we take a lot of risk all the time. And sometimes we try to come back as soon as possible." That was not always the right choice, he said. "It’s not the most important thing to come back as soon as possible. This is what I learned in 2020. We did a mistake to come back in Jerez, and we must accept that mistake."
Márquez shouldered most of the blame for that decision. "It was a consequence of many things," he said, referring to the chain of events and discussions that had gone on between rider, team, his management, and the doctors. "But in the end, the last decision was mine. I felt I was able to do it. But I learned from that situation for the future."
Motorcycle racing is a team sport, Márquez emphasized, so there was no point trying to point fingers in search of a scapegoat. "In the end it was a decision of everybody. When we won a title we always speak about team and the people around me. When we do a mistake we must speak about everything. Of course the last decision is mine."
But Márquez hinted at not getting enough pushback from the medical profession, the doctors who operated on him and at the track. "When me, Honda and my team receive a good feeling from the doctors, then of course you try, because you know the riders, and you know how the riders are. If you say they can try, then they try."
Márquez paid a heavy price for that hubris. "I felt I was able to try," he said. "But what I felt was not what my body needed. This was the main thing."
Here too, he gained a sense of perspective. "At that point I don’t want to push the doctors. I mean, we took many, many decisions and we took many, many risks in the past already with other injuries. When it’s going in a good way we say it was a miracle, something that wasn’t human."
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