Marc Marquez’s stint on the sidelines has left MotoGP lacking its “next level”, according to world champion Casey Stoner.
Honda star Marquez is facing at least another two months as he recovers from a broken arm sustained during the Spanish Grand Prix, after an initial comeback attempt at the Andalusian GP left him needing a second operation.
His absence has paved the way for some new winners in the class, Fabio Quartararo, Brad Binder and Miguel Oliveira all racking up maiden victories.
However the unpredictable start to the pandemic-affected season hasn’t impressed retired Ducati ace Stoner, who thinks the series is missing its “next level” without Marquez on the grid.
When asked by on the latest episode of the In the Fast Lane podcast if he feels Marquez’s absence has lessened the value of the championship, Stoner said: “This is where I can start some controversy, but I completely agree.
“Without Marc there, quite honestly, there’s no leader at the moment. And you see that by the results, by the people that are standing on the top step of the podium.
“Marc was a clear leader and took that championship to another level.
“When I was there it was myself, Valentino [Rossi], Jorge [Lorenzo] and Dani [Pedrosa] that were sort of always at the front stretching the field out.
“At the moment they don’t have that rider to do it, and show what you should be doing each weekend, a level of consistency throughout a season.
“Because this season is condensed, two races at each circuit, [the riders] sort of feel like if they got a half decent result one week, they’ll be okay for the next week.
“It’s a very, very different championship and I think it’s upsetting the mix.”
Stoner added that Repsol Honda’s decline since Marquez’s crash, which has seen the squad slump to last in the teams’ standings, shows the impact that the six-time top-tier world champion has.
“I honestly think you could pretty much win with any bike on the grid there at the moment,” he said.
“They’re all very similar, they just have some different traits to them and where they find their speed.
“The big difference, again, is there’s no leader for people. If you’re not a leader then you’re a follower.
“And if you’re a follower, you’ve got to see someone doing something on the bike to believe yourself that it can get there.
“It’s not an easy thing. I went through it myself at Ducati.
“When I wasn’t there the Ducati really struggled.
“I’m not necessarily calling myself a leader, but I never looked next door and thought the grass was greener. I thought this is the bike I’ve got to work with, so there’s a way of finding speed out of it.
“And that’s exactly what Marc does. He doesn’t worry about the rest of it.
“He just worries about his own thing, finding speed out of it, and with that people see what the bike can do and go ‘well if he can do that, I can at least get closer towards the front’.
“Without Marc there, [Repsol Honda] do certainly seem to have lost their way a bit in showing what the bike can do.”