Our MotoGP team previews continue ahead of lights out on Sunday, in this feature, we take a look at Repsol Honda and their chances in 2021.
Make sure to check out our other team previews too!
Marc Marquez’s long-awaited return was postponed for another two races earlier this week. The six-time MotoGP Champion is still recovering from the injury that sidelined him last year.
While stand-in Stefan Bradl is a capable rider, it is still a big blow for the Repsol Honda team. The Japanese outfit are desperate to improve on last year’s ninth-place finish in the Teams’ Standings.
In an attempt to rectify that, Honda have discarded Alex Marquez and replaced him with Pol Espargaro. The Spaniard finished fifth in the standings last year. He underpinned that position with five podiums and two pole positions.
Espargaro is now an experienced rider in the premier class, although he is a rookie on the Honda bike and the unique challenges that come with it. The Spaniard’s smooth riding style is in for a rude awakening on the RC213V. Bradl should start well in Qatar; he rode the bike in 2020 as Marquez’s replacement.
The significant challenge for Honda this year is Marquez. The Honda is like his second skin; he understands it innately. Marquez’s return can’t come soon enough for the team, which the Spaniards return is still the big question that will remain unanswered for the meantime.
2021 will be a tricky year for Honda. The return of Marquez is still unknown, after the confirmation he will miss the opening two rounds. The very earliest he will return is at Portimao, and that still looks like an uncertainty.
The Japanese manufacturer has a new face in the team, in the form of Espargaro. The Spaniard is without doubt one of the talents in MotoGP, but it will take time to adapt to what is a tricky Honda to ride, meaning strong results may not come until the mid-point of the season.
Pre-season did tell us that this may not be the case however, as the 29-year-old looked strong in terms of overall pace, but he only managed tenth during on the timesheets, showing the Honda still has improvements to be made.
There is very little to say about Marquez, the 28-year-old has shown time and time again that he can be consistently, and incredibly fast, so expect the eight-time World Champion to be back to his usual self as soon as he returns.
Marquez’s replacement for both 2020 and the opening 2021 rounds, Bradl, is a consistent rider for Honda whilst they await the Spaniard to return. I believe the German can be in a solid place on the grid for the races he contests this year, but 2021 still looks very uncertain as to where Honda may be on the grid.