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How struggling Yamaha convinced Quartararo to stay

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

MotoGP 2021 champion Fabio Quartararo has explained how Yamaha has managed to keep him in its line-up through 2026 - hinting at a sooner-than-expected potential impact from its "confidential" yet "huge" plans.

Quartararo's first works contract with Yamaha, covering 2021-22, yielded eight wins, 20 podiums and a title - yet his 2023-24 extension has so far only provided three podiums as Yamaha got fully overhauled by its European rivals.

And it meant Quartararo was openly talking about exploring a future away from Yamaha.

But while Quartararo remains highly-rated in the MotoGP paddock, his options outside of the Japanese manufacturers appeared limited - with Ducati spoiled for choice when it comes to riders already in its MotoGP roster, and KTM well-positioned to build around Brad Binder and rookie sensation Pedro Acosta.

Aprilia emerged as a Yamaha alternative for Quartararo and was known to be interested, but it was understood that it would've been a significantly less competitive offer financially.

Quartararo did not name Aprilia specifically when talking about his new Yamaha deal in a press conference ahead of MotoGP's Grand Prix of the Americas, and did not address the salary aspect.

"Of course we talked to different manufacturers," he admitted. "Of course the decision was not as easy."


Fabio Quartararo Yamaha Portimao MotoGP 2024

It was taken, he revealed, during or immediately after the preceding round at Portimao, following a "great meeting" with Yamaha's top brass.

Quartararo said that there he was presented with a very ambitious plan that included what he repeatedly described as "confidential" projects that are "going to be huge”.

"For me in Portugal there was much information that made me want to stay," he said.


Fabio Quartararo Yamaha Portimao MotoGP 2024

But how did this differ from the past, given Quartararo had already previously said that Yamaha was promising a lot and demanded for it to be backed up on track?

"What really made me want to stay was the way we totally changed the way of working," he stressed.

"Already from the test in Malaysia - something was not working, and already some engineers wanted to take it out, but some engineers said 'no, we will resolve the project' and it was working."

This aligns neatly with Quartararo's long-held desire for aggression in development - and the fact he, along with several of his peers on the MotoGP grid, have pointed to a certain conservatism and obstructive perfectionism when it came to Yamaha and its fellow Japanese marque Honda's approach to upgrading their increasingly-struggling MotoGP bikes.

Quartararo also spoke of the "loyalty" from Yamaha - with which he's spent the entirety of his MotoGP career so far - and the importance of being "wanted".

Unsurprisingly, he also referenced the arrival of Massimo Bartolini - a key figure from Ducati who is now effectively Yamaha's trackside leader, and whose arrival seemed to already make a huge impact on Quartararo's mindset earlier in the season.


Fabio Quartararo

Yamaha is still lagging behind. When Quartararo was asked why he would re-sign with a manufacturer after having complained so much about its product, he seemed to take minor umbrage at the word 'complained', arguing this was something he had done in 2023 but not this year.

"This year was not complaints. It was basically the reality," he said.

"Of course, last year especially was a year where I complained a lot. But this year since Yamaha made this big move, different mentality, and the way they are working right now, it's completely different.

"The reality today is we are still very, very far from the top guys. But we need more time to be closer. So, it's not really complaints that I'm telling right now, and [have been] in the past races. But just the way we are right now."

Truthfully, that is a purely semantic difference - as just in the pre-season he'd described the bike's grip as being "horrible" and its single-lap performance as "unacceptable", which was no less harsh than some of the words he'd used in 2023.


Fabio Quartararo Yamaha Portimao MotoGP 2024

The early races of 2024 have shown little in terms of pure laptimes to suggest a big step forward.

Yet that doesn't mean Quartararo's move is purely long-term, or at least not as long-term as Yamaha's current situation might suggest.

Asked by The Race whether he had signed with a view on 2027, when MotoGP will undergo a big regulations overhaul that has every chance of shaking up the competitive order, Quartararo hinted at a shorter timeline.

"Also one of the reasons [for staying] is the budget in terms of improving the bike is really high at Yamaha.

"I think already next year it will be quite different."

And he expressed belief that Yamaha would be a frontrunner again at some point during his newly-signed deal.

"Talking about 2024, it will not be easy. We started a little bit too late. But already we will see some steps forward coming in half a season, and hopefully next year we can be fighting much more in the front."

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