Marquez has damaged document after document in his comparatively brief profession and redefined what is feasible within the saddle of a multi-million-dollar MotoGP bike.
All through the 26-year-old Catalan’s time within the premier class, Hernandez has been his shadow. Watch any MotoGP weekend and the affable 44-year-old is there, clipboard in hand, whispering recommendation into Marquez’s ear and marshaling the extreme exercise within the storage round him. The 2 seem inseparable; pals with an unbreakable bond.
However most pals do not need to play the function of each good and unhealthy cop as a world champion’s chief engineer.
“The factor is that you might want to separate your private relationship,” Hernandez tells CNN Sport.
“Once I begin, I do not wish to be pals with the rider, as a result of it is a job, we’re in knowledgeable world. Whether or not you are a good buddy or not, if you end up with a champion, or any rider, they need the outcome.”
Persona counts for nothing, he says: “You could be good, a humorous man, however on the finish, if you’re not doing all of your job nicely…”, Hernandez smiles, whistles and makes a gesture along with his thumb, “you might be out.”
The crew chief is beneficiant sufficient to credit score Marquez for the pair’s particular bond.
“You could be with a rider for 10 years and by no means be a buddy, the connection is simply skilled. With Marc it is completely different,” says Hernandez.
“But it surely’s to not say all the things is correct once we’re working; many occasions, we battle, many occasions we’re in search of what’s the easiest way to do one thing, and lots of occasions we aren’t agreeing … however that is a part of the job.”
Journalist David Emmett, one of many MotoGP paddock’s pre-eminent voices and editor of the influential MotoMatters web site, has watched the connection between Hernandez and Marquez blossom.
“It actually is sort of a profitable marriage,” Emmett informed CNN Sport. “Marc trusts Santi, and Santi is open to Marc’s concepts. They spend hours day-after-day poring over knowledge, discussing methods of enhancing each side of racing, each on the observe and at dwelling.
“They win collectively, and so they lose collectively, they settle for each the reward and the blame collectively.”
The racing bug
Hernandez was born into the world of engineering — his father labored as a mechanic — and he raced scooters as a toddler. His brother raced within the Spanish championship, however the younger Hernandez was extra eager about soccer than MotoGP. It is noticeable how typically he makes use of soccer as an analogy for his work.
Step by step he began to get the bike bug. Then as a teen, he bought a fortunate break.
Whereas learning to be a mechanic and dealing in a store, a possibility got here as much as work at legendary suspension producer Showa.
“They wanted a younger man for an apprenticeship, and to show him about all the things about suspension, and I used to be fortunate that I knew some individuals working on the earth championship, and so they gave me the chance. And now, right here I’m.”
The MotoGP calendar is a slog. With 19 races throughout 5 continents, groups journey greater than 76,000 miles (123 kilometers) over the course of a season.
It is sufficient to put a pressure on anybody, and Hernandez admits it may be laborious.
“I’ve a daughter, she resides in London, I’m in Barcelona; but it surely’s not solely my daughter, I’ve my accomplice, my father, my brother, my uncles, the entire household, you want that.”
Between races the Barcelona-based Hernandez tries to make it dwelling when he can, but it surely is not all the time attainable.
“It relies upon: for instance, the final three races of the season, in Asia, you go ahead, since you are away for 3 weeks in a row,” he explains.
“Proper now, I desire to go dwelling between races, even when it is only for one week or 5 days. In fact, once I was youthful, I might wish to keep, as a result of all the things is new, however after 22 years, not a lot.”
Even within the low season, there may be little respite.
There’s a post-season take a look at in November, an evaluation of how the staff has completed to be performed in addition to briefing Japanese engineers in preparation for the subsequent championship.
However, Hernandez says, relaxation is significant.
“It is just like the riders,” he says. “They need to cease, they can not hold going within the fitness center, hold within the bodily situation day-after-day, as a result of they should additionally get well.
“Me too — you might want to change off, I imply, take two or three weeks, get pleasure from with the household, with pals, as a result of this job is such a sacrifice, since you do not do something with pals of household, so for that cause, that point is essential to recharge the batteries.”
The Marquez period has been a golden one for Honda, and the producer dominates the game. However success, Hernandez explains, solely will increase the strain.
“It is like in soccer, if you end up with a staff that has to win the league, the championship, the European league, all the things, when you win nothing it is a catastrophe.
“Right here it is the identical. If you find yourself with a rider like Marc, yearly you begin the season enthusiastic about profitable the world championship, to not end within the prime 5. Each time you aren’t getting your goal, it is not a very good outcome.”
The strain to win
Hernandez believes seeing a lead to context is significant after a race, but in addition says that strain is vital.
“In fact, after the race it’s a must to take a look at the larger image, as a result of many issues can occur, perhaps you end third, but it surely’s fairly good as a result of perhaps there are various crashes, or an harm, many issues.
“However if you end up with a rider like Marc, there’s one factor solely: to win. However the second I do not really feel that strain, I’ve to go dwelling, I can’t be right here.”
Two-wheeled racing is, by its nature, closely influenced by the climate. At April’s MotoGP of the Americas in Austin, groups have been confronted with moist, dry and windy circumstances on completely different days.
So what occurs when a crew is confronted with such a climate forecast?
“Properly, yeah, you say ‘f***’, Hernandez laughs. “The factor is, the bike is rarely good. You all the time wish to enhance, enhance, enhance, and even in case you have 10 days, you want yet another.
“This is similar in a race weekend. If tomorrow perhaps each session is within the moist, and Sunday is dry, you may have solely two classes to make the bike set-up.
“You must handle for the climate, and perhaps sacrifice some issues at the moment to be prepared, and deal with the largest issues, just like the tires, the set-up of the bike, so okay perhaps you do not arrive in the perfect situation, however to have the perfect concept of what we will do on Sunday.”
In any race weekend, teamwork is essential, Hernandez explains.
“My job, my place, is somewhat just like the coach in soccer, however across the coach are many individuals, they’re working very laborious, and with out that it’s unimaginable.
“One man like me is the face, however in that second each mechanic is underneath strain. They need to rapidly assemble the bike, they can not make a mistake. They’ve to organize, or restore the bike, or change a tire on the final second.”
The crew chief’s function is completely essential to a staff’s potential success, in keeping with Emmett.
“It’s laborious to overstate simply how vital Santi Hernandez’ function is. A fantastic crew chief can hearken to what the rider says about how the bike feels and responds and translate that into technical adjustments to make the bike sooner. That calls for belief, communication, and a really robust relationship.”
Marquez says the connection goes past expertise. “In fact, we discuss technical issues but in addition he’s serving to me about psychological issues, about life, and that skilled relationship turns into a really pleasant relationship.”
Hernandez cuts a particular determine within the MotoGP paddock, however — regardless of some mild ribbing from Honda’s press officer throughout CNN Sport’s interview, he insists his fame is restricted to the observe.
“Within the circuit in fact, I imply, the individuals who come to the observe, they comply with MotoGP, and when you comply with Marc, otherwise you comply with different riders … you realize the staff … they arrive as much as you,” he says.
“Then at dwelling, perhaps you go to a restaurant one time, and somebody comes as much as you and he is watching MotoGP and he says ‘ah, you might be working with Marc,’ and so forth.
“I am not the star, we’re a staff and we now have to work in the identical path. It is like I say, I am the one who all people is aware of, and other people assume I do all the things. However with out all the remainder of the individuals, I imply the engineers within the again and many individuals, I am nothing.”
Even after 22 years within the paddock, and with a grueling schedule that may push anybody to the restrict, Hernandez says life away from MotoGP is unthinkable.
“This can be a drug,” he laughs. “I am utterly, say in English … addicted. Now it is like I must go to the hospital to take that dependancy. However for now, I do not consider that.”
Regardless of the future holds, Marquez tells CNN Sport the connection with Hernandez will endure. “If now I finished racing he might be one among my finest pals in my life.”