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MotoGP Portugal GP

Marquez: MotoGP sprint race risk “more or less the same” as normal grand prix

Marc Marquez says a true judgement on MotoGP’s sprint race will have to wait a few rounds, but feels the aggression level “was more or less the same” as normal.

Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Saturday at the 2023 Portuguese Grand Prix saw MotoGP stage its first ever sprint race, with Ducati’s Francesco Bagnaia winning the 12-lap contest as poleman Marquez completed the podium.

Several riders were critical of the riding aggression seen in the sprint race, with Yamaha’s 2021 champion Fabio Quartararo calling the contest “a jungle” and warning “a big crash” will happen soon if it continues.

But Marquez – who has been an advocate for sprint races since it was announced last August – says the level of aggression for the shortened race should have come as no surprise given what is typically seen when a grand prix is red-flagged and restarted.

The Honda rider also feels the Portugal sprint may not be replicated in the next rounds because every rider was dialled into the circuit following two days of testing at the track earlier this month.

“I mean, about the sprint race, when they propose the sprint race it’s for that [for it to be a more attacking race],” Marquez said.

“It’s not necessary to have the first sprint race to realise that everyone will attack, like when we have a red flag in the long race.

“But especially in this circuit, we need to wait more for the other circuits. Here, we have a very similar pace to everybody because of the test, [we’ve all done] many laps in this circuit, everybody is in the perfect way.

“So, let’s see. But we are taking a lot of risk during all the weekend, because the last 15 minutes of FP2 is a qualy, then another qualy, then the sprint race, then tomorrow the long race.

“So, we will see. Of course, today I was a bit calm.

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Jorge Martin, Pramac Racing, Francesco Bagnaia, Ducati Team, Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team

Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images

“At the start I was aggressive, but then calm because my position was better than what I expected and main target was top five.

“Step-by-step I started to lose and I was aggressive again, but it was more or less the same risk I take in a normal race.”

Sprint winner Bagnaia says the criticism of the aggression levels seen in the sprint are at odds with complaints made last year about the difficulties of overtaking on modern MotoGP bikes, and feels riders don’t need to attack the Saturday contest too hard given only 12 points are on offer instead of 25.

“Last year it was [said] it was impossible to overtake because of the aerodynamics, for many reasons,” Bagnaia stated.

“And now it’s a ‘jungle’ with the same aerodynamics. I was not behind, so I don’t know what happened.

“For sure to make an overtake now, you have to take some risks, you have to be aggressive.

“It’s like this and you have to be prepared. For sure the race on Saturday you have to approach in a smooth way, because if you win you get 12 points, but it's not the 25 of Sunday.

“So, I think you can manage to just be constant and try to be in the front. If you have to make an overtake you have to be a bit aggressive, but it’s like this.”

Second-placed Jorge Martin believes the aggression in the sprint was purely because “everyone was a bit nervous”, and that “race by race it will be more relaxed”.

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