"When Jorge Lorenzo is in that moment in which he feels good on the bike, and when everything's in place, he can be unbeatable."
So says Marc Marquez, Lorenzo's current teammate and the man who has reigned supreme in MotoGP since arriving on the scene in 2013, having won five titles from six available.
Last summer, the news of Honda adding Lorenzo to its line-up shook the grand prix paddock and made every fan's dream a reality – the two most recent world champions, seen as the best riders of their present era, would be able to go head to head in the same 'dream team'.
Lorenzo, of course, won't have thought when signing the contract that he'd find himself under pressure just a few races into his Honda tenure, having struggled to achieve the results that are expected of a factory HRC rider. A scaphoid fracture while training ahead of pre-season testing has clearly jeopardised his preparations for the season, and he's still paying the consequences.
Five races into the 2019 season, Lorenzo is 14th in the standings, having collected a meagre 16 points, which marks his joint-worst beginning to a MotoGP season. 'Joint' because he was on the same amount of points after five races last year, only to take a breakthrough first Ducati win in race six.
The way Lorenzo's season has gone, it is normal to wonder whether the Mallorcan – now 32 and having difficulties adapting to another new bike – is still capable of returning to the top spot with Honda. Yet given his proven track record of weathering storms and improving himself over his 17 seasons in grand prix racing, you'd be brave to bet against another comeback.
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing
Photo by: Toni Börner
Heightened pressure and disharmony have been frequent companions in Lorenzo's career. In 250cc, he won his first title while his manager Dani Amatriain was clashing with Chicho Lorenzo, his father. He then split with Amatriain during the 2008 campaign, in which he finished as MotoGP's top rookie.
In 2011, he was headed for a split with long-time crew chief Ramon Forcada, only to continue working with the Spaniard as they combined for a second riders' title in 2012 and a third in 2015. The latter happened against a backdrop of the famous flare-up between Marquez and Valentino Rossi, and required a pitch-perfect ride in a nervy Valencia finale.
Towards the end of his Ducati tenure, he had finally cracked the Desmosedici bike. He is now working to achieve the same with the RC213V, and has been turning it inside out in order to find a way to make it suit him.
"This bike is not so simple, it's not a friendly bike like the Yamaha, that come the rookies from the Moto2 and they are suddenly fast, no?" Lorenzo said after the latest race in Le Mans.
"It's a bike that requires a lot of time, to understand what is the secret to take the maximum. So I am in this process, it's a matter of time, hard work, and I keep working, because sooner or later, we will be there and things will look different."
"We have tried to give Jorge what he asked us for, so he could understand what the bike is like," team boss Alberto Puig told Motorsport.com.
Jorge Lorenzo, Ducati Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / LAT Images
"He is a five-time world champion, so he has earned the right to be heard. We've even given him things knowing that they wouldn't work. But there are riders who need to test certain things to rule them out.
"We have no problem with that. In the Jerez test he took a small step forward and I think at Le Mans he took another. I believe he's starting to learn how the bike works."
At the same time, Puig stresses that it would "make no sense" to make big changes to the character of the bike while championship leader Marquez is performing at the level he is.
Puig was instrumental in bringing Lorenzo over to replace Dani Pedrosa. The Repsol Honda outfit had two primary targets before him, but Johann Zarco, advised by ex-manager Laurent Fellon, joined up with KTM, while Joan Mir ended up at Suzuki despite having signed a Honda pre-contract.
Puig maintains Lorenzo was the best option available, but the bad start to the season has created rumours of a potential early split, the team boss is clear those have no basis in reality.
"Jorge signed a two-year contract and, from our side, he is going to fulfil that 100%," Puig said. "Honda is committed to making him competitive, which is why he was brought here. Whether he manages it or not is a different story."
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team
Photo by: Gold and Goose / LAT Images
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