After approximately nine months since injuring himself in the 2020 MotoGP season opener, Marc Marquez will make a second attempt at a comeback at this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, having been given the all clear by doctors to make a return to competitive racing.
His initial attempt at a comeback from his 2020 Spanish Grand Prix accident failed as the Spaniard tried to return only a week after injuring himself. This hurried attempt in part contributed to aggravating his injury and therefore delayed his comeback even further.
There will no doubt be plenty of intrigue over Marquez’s return, and a wide variety of expectations. There are likely to be those keeping expectations in check, while on the opposite end of the spectrum, others may feel there is a possibility of the Spaniard becoming champion in 2021.
This assumes that Marquez’s latest comeback is more successful than his first and assumes he won’t suffer another injury throughout the rest of the 2021 season. Should he manage to make this latest return stick, and avoid further injury, it will be interesting to see how Marquez does in the first few Grand Prix and throughout the remainder of the season.
The premier class is very open and also incredibly close. This was seen throughout the 2020 season, where there were eight different winners across the 14 races contested, and by the distance covering the top 15 at the end of the 2021 Doha Grand Prix. Where Marquez ultimately slots in to the competitive order will provide clues as to what sort of season he will have. His performance in Portimao will also serve as a benchmark on which to gauge his progression over the season and therefore also give an idea of how successful, or not, his return is.
There is also the intrigue of what Marquez’s return does to the championship battle, Honda and his 2021 teammate Pol Espargaro. Marquez will enter the Portuguese Grand Prix 40 points behind the current championship leader Johann Zarco. Even if the factory Honda rider isn’t able to challenge directly for the championship, he will undoubtedly have a major say in who does ultimately become the 2021 champion. This will especially be the case if Marquez rediscovers the type of form he had in 2019.Embed from Getty Images
Honda find themselves sixth, and last, in the Constructors’ standings while the Repsol Honda team are fifth in the Teams’ standings going into the third race of the season. This after the manufacturer finished 2020 fifth in the Constructors’ and ninth (out of eleven) in the Teams’ standings. Marquez can go some way to helping to improve, or even hindering, Honda’s challenge in the Constructors’ and Teams’ championship.
As well as the performance of Honda across the rest of 2021 there is also the question of how the Japanese manufacturer will go about developing the RC213V. There was a belief from some that the 2020 season forced Honda to make their bike suit a variety of riding styles, rather than just catering to that of Marc Marquez’s. This shift was believed to have slightly helped the likes of Takaaki Nakagami and Alex Marquez in the latter part of last season. It will take time to see but it will be interesting to hear whether Honda decide to utilise Marc Marquez to help make the bike serve a variety of riding styles, or whether the manufacturer returns to focusing on moulding the bike predominantly around the Spaniard’s riding style.
It will also be interesting to see what Marquez’s return does for Pol Espargaro, especially in terms of his continued adaption to the Honda bike. The former KTM rider now potentially has the possibility of getting a true reference of what is possible on the Honda with the return of Marquez, who has been very successful on the RC213V since joining the Japanese manufacturer back in 2013.
As can be seen there are plenty of plot lines from Marc Marquez’s return, from his own performance, that of the Honda team and other Honda riders, and of course the influence he will undoubtedly have on the outcome of the 2021 MotoGP championship.