The 2013 Moto2 World Champion switched from KTM to the Honda factory team for 2021, but found the transition extremely difficult.
Because COVID-19 forced the season’s pre-testing to be shortened to just five days in Qatar before the year’s first two races in Losail, Espargaro got caught up playing for most of the campaign.
The 2021 Honda lacked traction, which caused problems for its drivers both when cornering and getting into them – the Espargaro was unable to take advantage of its normal braking style to use the rear brake.
Several post-race tests during the season allowed him to make progress as Espargaro took the pole position at Silverstone and achieved his best-ever MotoGP result in second place at the Emilia Romagna GP and completed Honda’s first 1-2 after Marc Marquez from 2017 onwards.
Reflecting on his first season as a Honda driver, Espargaro admits he actually started it on his hind leg, but felt that concrete progress had been made on the bike by the end of the year.
“Basically, the experience with MotoGP is halfway down – it’s very important,” Espargaro said.
“And especially when you change bikes, the level of MotoGP is now fantastic, it’s super, super high.
“So you don’t have time to say you’re adapting or you don’t have time to test, you don’t have that much testing right now.
– We started the first race in Qatar, we are not actually ready in a few laps in Qatar [testing] and a few laps on the bike.
“So, I really wasn’t ready. Then I had to figure out how to ride a bike on race weekends, which is very, very difficult because you have all the pressure, you want to perform well, you have crashes, you don’t have time to work on the bike.
Pol Espargaro, Repsol Honda Team
By Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
“So we had to use small tests as a very important test for us, and during the year with these tests – especially from the middle of the year – we really improved the bike, we really improved our settings and I started to feel much better on the bike.
– Of course, if we had this experience at the beginning of the year, like in the Portimao competition [the Algarve GP] was the first competition, the year would have been much easier and different.
“But in the end, that’s what it is, we can’t go back in time. We have to take it.
“What was good was that we ended up in the pole position and the podium, fighting instead of the top five in the last races and this is something great.”
Espargaro finished 12th in the standings with 100 points – 42 out of Marc Marquez, who missed four races due to injury and crashed out of four others.
After a two-day post-Jerez test, Espargaro – still in a furious crash that ruled him out of the Valencia final – welcomed Honda’s steps on his 2022 bike and said the updated RC213V had been restored. missing rear handle.