Inseparable from Marc Márquez of which he is the pillar of the technical team, Santi Hernández has played a key role in the success of the Spanish champion since 2011. Last year, he experienced an unprecedented event with him with the violent fall of his driver in the first Grand Price, followed by the shock of an injury which very quickly turned out to be more serious than it had initially suggested.
“It has been a very difficult, very hard year. At the beginning, it was complicated. We initially thought that Marc might take less time to come back. This is the reason why we do not prepare psychologically for an absence as well. long”, explains the Spanish technician to Motorsport.com.
Accidented on July 19 as he returned to the lead after relinquishing leadership in a brilliantly saved first off-road trip, Marquez attempted a comeback six days later, just four days after being operated on for a fracture of the humerus. Although he quickly gave up, called for caution by the pain and lack of strength quickly felt, the worst was yet to come. A few days later, a simple daily gesture at home caused the plaque on his fracture to give way. The situation then changed completely and his return, still hoped for for a few weeks, was not going to be possible in 2020, his recovery proving to be slower than hoped.
“We thought he was going to miss a couple of races, during which we would have worked with Bradl as a test team. But over the weeks the information we got indicated that it was going to take longer and that ‘we had to change our state of mind “, explain Santi Hernández. “It takes a lot of effort to readjust as you go from fighting for victory or for the podium every weekend, with the goal of fighting for the title, to a very different goal now.”
Forced to work with Honda test pilot Stefan Bradl, the engineer had to adapt and review his ambitions. But above all, he learned to put things in perspective to the point that he now manages to retain the positive of this experience despite performances very far from those to which he was used. “At the end of the year, we were very proud of what we have done as a team”, he assures. “When we realized that Marc was not coming back imminently, we had to change our mindset, in order to try to score points. In my case, I mostly learned to value this. that I have. I have found that I am lucky to work with the best. “
“Going from being alongside Marc to being alongside Bradl made me realize that for most of the drivers on the grid, the goal every weekend is not to win, but to score points. . I’ve been with Marc since 2011 and our goal has always been to win. It tends to make you think it’s normal, but in the paddock it’s not normal. A good result is to finishing in the top 10. What happened made me value what I have with Marc even more. “
“The best thing that has happened to us this year is that each of us has found our own motivation”, continues Santi Hernández. “We had an example of this motivation in Portimão. Stefan fell during the warm-up and he destroyed the bike. I had never seen a bike so destroyed, and yet with Marc we saw a lot. Even our boss, Takeo [Yokoyama], told us he understood the situation and that, if we didn’t have time to fix it, he would understand. But the mechanics got to work and they even had time to have coffee once the bike was finished. What would have been easy for a team that plays nothing, knowing that we were at the last race and that in addition the boss allowed us to relax, it would have been to relax. But the band took the risk and that speaks for itself. “
His convalescent champion, Santi Hernández lived the championship from a different perspective in recent years, he who accompanied the driver in the quest for six titles in seven years in the premier class, and who had just enjoyed a record season with him. in 2019 with 420 points stored. The championship, deprived of its alien, however struggled to find a leader, and the engineer says he was incredulous.
“I was surprised, I didn’t get it. Those who should have banged their fists on the table and asserted themselves as leaders didn’t. Nobody did. Which is surprising is that people like Viñales, Quartararo or Dovizioso have found themselves in another world. It is as if greyhounds have stopped running after their hare has been taken from them. Maybe at the beginning of the season they prepared to beat the champion, then suddenly he disappeared and they didn’t know what to do and they got lost. Quartararo won the first two races in Jerez, then he disappeared. was quite surprised. “
Interview by Oriol Puigdemont