Perhaps most significantly the Repsol Honda pair had just one crash between them all weekend, when Márquez fell in warm-up, trying the medium front, which is why he opted for the safe option for the race.
Last year Márquez crashed the old RC213V 22 times in 14 race weekends, while Espargaró fell 20 times in 18 weekends. HRC won’t know what to do with the millions it will save on crash parts.
So far the new bike – which is more rear-biased to take full advantage of Michelin’s current rear slick – suits Espargaró better because he’s always used the rear tyre more than the front to attack corners. Not wonder he was grinning all weekend, after a confidence-battering first season with Honda last year.
“Last season, corner entry was a nightmare for me,” he said at Losail. “I couldn’t use the rear brake, because when I put the bike into a corner the rear was floating. I never had the feeling that the rear was in full contact with asphalt. Then I lost confidence after several huge crashes on entry. That’s what’s changed most – now I have the confidence to go into corners without thinking about high-siding on entry.
“Now I’m using the rear brake more and I’m hammering more with the engine-braking – sliding a bit more into the corner, with control. When I can do this it gives me a lot of speed.”
Espargaró chose soft/soft for the race because he expected a big group at the front, with slower lap times. Instead he led from the first lap, pushing like hell to keep his unexpected lead.
“When you can ride all weekend like you want it’s another life” Marc Márquez
“In a group I could’ve saved the tyres and saved some fuel, because everyone is on the limit with fuel here. But I was leading the race, pushing the tyres and engine to their limit. When it was seven laps to go I knew my tyres were finished and I started to lose the rear tyre into right-handers and then the front started to lock. My riding style in corner entry is based on the rear brake, to take stress out of the front rear, so as soon as rear was locking I knew I was done.”
Espargaró lost the lead and second place at Turn 1 on lap 18, when Bastianini came past him on the straight.