Fabio Quartararo believes a “big accident” is inevitable and will come “soon” under MotoGP’s new-for-2023 sprint format, which made its debut at Portimao.
The first-ever MotoGP sprint looked markedly more chaotic than a typical race, with a substantial amount of contact and five retirements among 21 starters – one of them, admittedly, a mechanical failure for rookie Augusto Fernandez.
A crash between Luca Marini and Enea Bastianini has left the latter with a shoulder blade fracture that will necessitate a spell on the sidelines.
Quartararo, for his part, was lucky to remain in the race after he bogged down at the start with a potential launch control issue and was clobbered by Honda’s Joan Mir while fighting mid-pack.
While Mir was out, Quartararo dropped down to last but recovered to 10th, just shy of points. And when asked whether he’d enjoyed the first crack at a sprint race, he was categorical.
“No. Not at all. And there will be a big accident. Soon,” Quartararo replied.
“I mean, it’s a jungle. We are not in cars – in that, at the end, you touch, it’s not a problem.
“You can be aggressive. Today was fine, only Marini and Bastianini crashed. But for sure in the future there will be much more crashes.”
Quartararo stressed contact was “no problem” but claimed “we are on bikes that sometimes react in a way that you can’t control them”, likely referencing the fact that MotoGP clashes can lead to potentially disastrous ride height device failures or knock off aero parts and dramatically change the handling of a bike in an instant.
And he insisted he was “not surprised” by the aggression because of the urgency created by the reduced race distance.
“Do two races of 25 laps. Physically it’s going to be tough. But, I mean, in 25 laps you have a little bit more time.
“It looked like the first lap was the last lap. In the future everyone must fight like this – that’s what I think is quite dangerous.”
His sentiment was echoed by Marini, whose fall triggered Ducati stablemate Bastianini’s injury.
“Everybody has a rush during this race. Everybody was trying to overtake me, I tried to overtake another rider, touching… it starts to be a little bit dangerous. But this is the format, for this year we have to do this. I think everybody’s smart enough to make good sprint races in the future.”
Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro repeatedly tried to no-comment on his initial impressions, wary of tensions running high and hoping to have more level-headed feedback for when the MotoGP safety commission next convenes on Friday at Termas de Rio Hondo.
“I’m not really happy about what I saw on track,” he ultimately acknowledged. “I hope that everybody enjoys it, this is what [promoter] Dorna is trying. I’m happy if everybody enjoyed it at home.”
Informed of Bastianini’s injury, he said: “I don’t want to talk, OK? I will talk. But this is the first sprint race, let’s see if the dynamic changes a little bit or not.
“But I didn’t like what I saw today! If people enjoyed at home, perfect, I’m happy. This is a show. But as a rider, I didn’t really enjoy it.
“It has been a lot of tension. In front of me I saw five crashes. It was crazy. Alex Marquez hit Maverick [Vinales]. I don’t know. Also I almost touched some parts of the bike of Bastianini. Everybody was on the limit. It was crazy, I couldn’t see my dash, I don’t know my laptimes, I couldn’t see my pitboards.”
Concern, however, was far from universal among MotoGP riders – with Pramac Ducati’s Johann Zarco describing new-look Saturdays as “more fun” and KTM’s Brad Binder saying he “likes a good scrap”.
“It was good, heaps of fun. Full contact sport out there at the moment. I enjoyed a lot,” said Binder’s team-mate Jack Miller.