Making his comeback after almost four-months recovering from arm surgery, Marc Marquez surged from 13th to 6th in the opening turns.
But a small slide on the exit of Turn 3 had big consequences for title leader Fabio Quartararo, who hit the back of Marquez’s Honda and was thrown down the track.
Marquez kept going but part of Quartararo’s broken bodywork was jammed in his ride-height system, causing the bike to veer across the track on the exit of Turn 7, resulting in another clash that left Takaaki Nakagami down and out.
“Forget about the social media side of things. I mean, people that don’t race motorcycles probably don’t quite see it the way that it actually is. That’s got to be the underlying thing,” said former Grand Prix rider and British Champion Keith Huewen.
“But for me, it’s all the clickbait merchants and people sitting behind keyboards who are writing for whatever publication and even some television commentators, I’ve got to say.
“When you’ve got a non-racing tubby journo behind his keyboard trying to emulate a 5 times, 6 times 7 times or in this case 8 times world champion, it just gets right up my nose!
“It’s hysteria for clickbait. I can’t stand it. It drives me absolutely insane. The fact of the matter is, it was a reflex action by Marquez.
“If you look at all of the races, everybody was having a little bit of grip trouble early on in an opening lap. But it’s also an opportunity to make up places. We all do it, everyone that races a motorbike, everybody that races anything. If there’s an opportunity to make up space in those first two or three bends, you will make it up.
“Marc Marquez went round the outside [at Turn 1]. He was getting himself in a good position and the back just let go on him a little bit.
“It happens, it spun up. The traction control would have been set for a little bit more grip, so therefore it didn’t bang in perhaps like it would have done if it had been a lap or two later when there was a bit more heat in the tyres.
“But then the hysteria – there was one person speculating whether he did it on purpose! I mean, what goes on in these people’s heads? I’ve got no clue at all.
“Marquez wouldn’t even be thinking about shutting the throttle. It would have been just a reflex roll [off] to get the thing back in line. And unfortunately for the likes of Quartararo, he was in close behind because he’s trying to take advantage.
“Quartararo will have been annoyed, but even Lin Jarvis said it’s a racing incident.
“But it’s the whipping up of the clickbait that really gets on my nerves, and obviously on other people’s nerves as well. I read a piece only this morning from Ben Spies. Now there is a guy who can ride a motorbike. You don’t get much better than Ben Spies and he’s had a right old swipe.
— Ben Spies (@BenSpies11) September 20, 2022
“Not particularly in this case, but I listen to some commentary on TV and think, ‘this guy has not even ridden a motorbike at this level’. It’s not something you can comment about if you’ve not done it. That should be the domain of the expert,
“I always get messages from Terry Rymer when I’m watching TV saying how much it annoys him! There are people with experience of riding motorbikes around the world who are going ‘What? What?’ and you want to throw things at the TV.
“But back to Marquez, he might just think to himself, ‘what the bloody hell do I have to do to stay out of trouble?’ All he wanted was a good run at Aragon and here he is, with all the usual criticism, every troll in the world on his case, and it was a racing incident. There was no more to it than that.
“He was as big a victim of it in the end because he didn’t get the race distance that he needed for the next part of the jigsaw in his recuperation.
“Nakagami was a bit unfortunate. It looked like it was still wheelieing a little bit as Marquez was in his way. Marquez had got something some of Quartararo’s fairing jammed under the rear wheel, interfering with the forward motion of the Honda. So that was unfortunate and Nakagami I feel genuinely sorry for.”
Crash.net MotoGP editor Peter McLaren added: “I was at most of the rider debriefs after the race on Sunday and none of the riders I heard criticised Marc for the Quartararo incident. It was just one of those things. You also had Aleix passing Bastianini at the same time, Marc was trying to stay inside of that etc.
“Quartararo certainly didn’t suggest he thought anything untoward had happened.
“I think to be honest, this kind of first lap incident was always going to happen to Quartararo sooner or later just because of the situation he’s in with that bike, and not being able to overtake.
“If he doesn’t qualify on the front row, he has no choice but to do these kind of flat-out first laps. Quartararo can’t wait until the back straight to pick people off, because of the top speed problem, so he’s got to go for it in the corners. And the start is the best chance to do that.
“But you can’t keep doing that race in, race out, at this level without an incident happening eventually. I just think Quartararo paid the price for having to get 110% out of that Yamaha all the time.
“There was a bit more variation in rider opinion for the Nakagami incident, should Marc have been a bit more aware of the bike damage before that corner? But then some others said Nakagami, being behind, should have taken more action to avoid the contact.”
Francesco Bagnaia went on to cut Quartararo’s title lead to just 10 points, but it could have been just 5 had fellow Ducati rider Enea Bastianini not overtaken Bagnaia for victory on the final lap.
As such, podcast host Harry Benjamin revisits the question of Ducati team orders before a review of the Moto2 and Moto3 events, including the shocking pit lane block by the Sterilgarda Max mechanics on Tech3’s Adrian Fernandez.
Finally, the try to predict the top three for this Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi, a venue off the calendar since 2019, meaning 10 of the current grid have no prior MotoGP race experience at the track.
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