The Repsol Honda rider, forced to retire after being involved in both opening lap incidents at Aragon, finished the extended 75-minute session just 0.147s from fastest man Jack Miller (Ducati).
“The practice has been good because especially in this circuit it looks like the bike is working well,” Marquez confirmed. “Our weak points affect us less [here], or I feel them less today and from the beginning I felt good with the bike.
“We activate the holeshot here 5 times so it’s a lot! We are putting more and more torque and braking later and later. For that reason already from the first run we were already very close to the best lap of the race in 2019.
“The target was to be in the top ten because tomorrow it looks like it’ll rain. So it’ll be important to understand how I can work with the tyres and the set up of the bike.
“Today I only used the aluminium [swingarm]. Tomorrow if it rains we need to decide with the team if we use aluminium or carbon. It’s more about the quantity because we have more carbon. In case of a crash, we have more spare parts.
“But still we don’t know exactly. Today we went straight away with the aluminium and we don’t know which one is better. We need to analyse which one to keep.”
But while the technical side of Marquez’s day went well, backed up by team-mate Pol Espargaro in seventh, the #93 did suffer some physical issues.
“I feel some pain and a lack of power,” said Marquez, who was seen touching his right shoulder during the session. “Like I felt in Misano and Aragon, but here there are long, long braking areas. So I’m struggling a little more.
“I started at full attack, not like crazy, just I didn’t think about my physical condition. I gave everything I had [and] I feel it. Because in the last part of the practice I started to feel some pain in specific points.
“The problem is when the muscles lose power, then you start to stress in a strange way, you start to make strange positions in the shoulder, the bone. You are pushing more the joints.
“But before coming here, we already imagined it will be a very difficult circuit [physically].
“Today I understood to do a full-attack race distance and be consistent will be very difficult. Maybe for the race distance, I’ll need to drop a bit the pace to finish in a good way.”
Honda lap time depends a lot on rear grip
Meanwhile, Marquez attributed the RCV’s strong start to the weekend to the level of grip.
“It’s like always. In the Misano test, in Mandalika, in Sepang, full rubber down on track, good grip, you can use banking, then the lap time is coming. Today the practice was 1 hour and 15 which means half an hour more of rubber on track. In the end the grip was so high. As soon as we have high grip, the lap time is coming.
“Especially Pol is struggling a lot with a lack of grip. Like Aragon. When the track has spinning, he is struggling even more. But the answer is this one. The problem is that with this bike, the lap time depends a lot on the rear grip. You cannot do anything with the front. You don’t have the feedback, the information to push with the front tyre.
“It’s depending everything on rear grip. Especially in this track, we don’t use the turning. It’s a stop and go track. You don’t carry the speed in the middle of the corner, and that’s our weak point this year.”
Marquez’s advice to Nagashima
HRC test rider Tetsuta Nagashima, making his MotoGP debut this weekend, revealed he had been given some advice by Marquez after suffering a fall on his way to 22nd (+1.3s) in Friday practice.
“Speaking honestly, I was a little bit nervous because it has always been my dream to ride in MotoGP and today I achieved it,” said Nagashima, winner of the 2020 Qatar Moto2 Grand Prix. “Like this I wasn’t riding exactly as I want, but Marquez gave me some advice that I will try to use tomorrow.”
So what had that advice been?
“Just enjoy,” Marquez said. “What I felt yesterday was there was too much pressure [on him]. He’s a rider that has never raced with a MotoGP bike. So you cannot finish in the top ten. And to score points even will be difficult.
“So he needs to enjoy the weekend and then we’ll see, but zero pressure on him. From my side, and from Honda’s side, I believe that he just needs to enjoy it and try the things.”