SportMotoGPThe human importance of Márquez's forced absence from MotoGP

The human importance of Márquez's forced absence from MotoGP

Marc Márquez’s announcement during the Italian Grand Prix, that he would leave the competition in 2022 to undergo a fourth operation on his right arm seriously damaged in his crash at the 2020 Spanish GP , confirmed the rumors that until then had been denied: that possibility was there.

In fact it was a half truth. That Thursday at Mugello, the six-time world champion was not willing to leave the championship to undergo another operation. But I had checked the option.

Already last October, when he was left out due to diplopia (double vision) problems, Márquez began to weigh the idea of a fourth major operation on his arm. Since his return at the 2021 Portuguese Grand Prix in April last year, Márquez has been a shadow of his former self.

The operations he underwent in 2020 had forced the humerus to be rotated from its normal position. That prevented him from training as he normally did, and also caused shoulder problems. Although the bone had healed when he returned to racing, he had to ride in a different way.

On circuits run clockwise, where right-hand corners predominate, his problems were further aggravated. On the counter-clockwise tracks, he could prove himself to be the masterful driver that he is. At the Sachsenring and Circuit of the Americas he took victory, while at Aragon he narrowly missed out on victory against Ducati rider Pecco Bagnaia. And at the Misano circuit, which is clockwise, he benefited from Bagnaia ‘s own crash to get his third victory of the 2021 season. There it seemed that the old Márquez was slowly resurfacing. But the reality was very different.

“My day to day is very affected,” Marquez said of his right arm. “Before I used to train a lot at home with motocross, with road bikes, with any kind of bike, I was training a lot [before the crash].”

Despite three wins since his comeback from injury, Marquez hasn't been able to ride or train like he used to

“Now normal life is to go home, rest two or three days because I can’t do anything, just some leg work, some cycling. And then I start training again, physiotherapy, painkillers. I tell my doctors and my people that riding like this I can do one more year or two more years, no more, because I’m not enjoying it. I’m suffering a lot and I can’t stand this mentally”.

Marc Márquez’s splurge after finishing seventh on his return to Portugal was the first time the six-time world champion had looked truly vulnerable and offered a taste of the hell he has been through since the previous July.

But throughout 2021, despite missing four races and crashing in another four, he was still comfortably the best Honda rider with 40 points and the only HRC rider to win races. In the end, that prompted Honda’s radical overhaul of the bike for 2022, as the physical problems of its main star, coupled with his team-mates’ problems with the RC213V , forced a search for a bike that was easier to ride.

“Driving like this there are ups and downs and I can be on the podium at some circuits, but it’s not the way I want to drive. I’m suffering a lot and it creates other injuries and I can’t continue driving like this.” Marc Márquez

Marquez, however, told in February this year in Indonesia that he could have won the championship in 2021 with that Honda had he been in better physical condition. What had become clear from the first seven races of 2022 before Mugello was that he would not have been able to win the title on the 2022 RC213V, and perhaps not on any other Honda either.

His race weekends had been greatly affected by his arm injury. He has to drive more reservedly on Fridays to stay fit for the race, so his preparation on Sunday is disrupted. Add to that his tireless work leading the development of the RC213V on Fridays and Marquez has faced a constant battle this year.

However, once again, despite everything, he is still easily the best Honda rider, and after Mugello he was in ninth position in the standings with 60 points, 20 more than his team-mate Pol Espargaró, who seems to see in front of the exit gate of HRC by 2023.

So while his title hopes for 2022 have been non-existent, there’s obviously still a chance for Márquez to return to who he was before his injury: the rider who won six world championships in his first seven years of MotoGP, staying one to equal the numbers of Valentino Rossi, which until before Márquez seemed unattainable.

Marquez has struggled with Honda's 2022 MotoGP bike which added extra pressure on to his injury comeback

“The way I’m driving, like this, I’m suffering too much and I’m not enjoying myself,” Marquez said after announcing his operation. “Every weekend is a nightmare to keep pushing.”

“But it’s true that my body is the same and the way forward now is to prepare for 2023. It’s true that I want to thank Honda because they believe [in me] and support me a lot. We’ll see.”

“Even driving like this there are ups and downs. I can be on the podium at some circuits, but it’s not the way I want to drive. I’m suffering a lot and that leads to other injuries. I can’t continue driving like this.”

The reason why Márquez did not undergo surgery before was because the right humerus bone was not prepared until now for such an important operation. The green light for the operation was received on Friday at Mugello between the two training sessions, hence his response in advance to the rumors of the operation. Had he arrived earlier, he admitted after finishing 10th in an “emotional” race at Mugello, he would not have taken part in the Italian GP.

Márquez traveled to the United States to undergo the operation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and Dr. Joaquín Sánchez – recommended as the best in this field – supervised the procedure. This is how the Honda team boss, Alberto Puig, had explained the operation: “The surgery will consist of the extraction of the osteosynthesis material in the right shoulder. In addition, together with a humeral osteotomy to improve external rotation in the arm and stability in the shoulder”.

Once operated successfully, the duration of his recovery is unknown, which could be between four and six months. He has already returned to Spain to begin rehabilitation. Marquez had revealed that his doctors told him not to bother going in for the operation if he thought he could get on the bike fast. In any case, it is likely that we will not see Marc Márquez in MotoGP again in 2022.

It is a situation that is far from ideal for Honda in particular and for MotoGP in general. But it is a necessary sacrifice that must be made. Few doubt that, once he is fully fit, Márquez will once again fight on the front lines.

“For me, Marc has been – and is – the best driver of the last 10 years and he has had a really tough last few years,” reigning world champion Fabio Quartararo said. “For a driver, having an injury and coming back is already difficult, but he came back and won three races last year, he was fighting, he never gave up.

Marquez says he wouldn't have competed at last weekend's Italian GP if he got the news to have surgery sooner

“Whatever the decision is,” he said before Marquez gave the press conference, “I will support him and wish him the best recovery and hopefully he comes back and we have great fights, like in 2019.”

In the end, however, whether Marquez wins again is almost irrelevant. What matters most now is that you simply get back in a position where you can enjoy your life again. That, as he himself points out, will be the ultimate victory.

“It’s been a difficult year and a half, but it’s made me tougher and I hope it’s a [turning] point to ride the way I want,” said Márquez in his final press conference with the media at Mugello. “Then, if we win or not, we’ll see. It’s not about having surgery and winning, for me, having surgery and having fun again will be a victory.”

And a Marquez having fun is synonymous with fright for the rest of the MotoGP riders…

Will the old Marquez return after his latest surgery comeback?

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