until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


How a 2020 chat set Quartararo on the path to the MotoGP title

by Simon Patterson
5 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

As the 2020 MotoGP season started to draw to a close, things couldn’t have looked much worse for Fabio Quartararo. The Frenchman had started the year in stunning form, establishing himself as an early title contender with a maiden win at the opening race in Jerez, and a second win only a week later.

But from that point things had quickly unravelled, and by the time the series arrived at Valencia, he was in a completely different situation. Only able watch on as he plummeted from title contention to a distant eighth in the final standings, Quartararo’s plight was made even worse by the late rise of Petronas Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli, who ended the year second overall.

Fabio Quartararo Petronas Yamaha MotoGP

But in that disastrous end to the season – and in the Valencia double-header in particular – were laid the seeds of his incredible 2021 title challenge, according to both Quartararo and crew chief Diego Gubellini, who together made the switch for this year from the satellite team to the factory Monster Energy Yamaha squad.

Singling out a specific blow-up in the box after yet another poor session at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo in the absolute depths of his 2020 late-season misery, Quartararo highlighted the lesson learned from what Gubellini said to him afterwards as one of the key steps in his transformation for this year.

Oct 25 : Quartararo's sudden coronation steals spotlight from rare Honda 1-2

“This year I never really got angry,” he told The Race after his title success. “Last year I remember in Valencia, the bike was not working at all and I arrived to the box, not shouting but telling to my crew chief ‘it’s not braking, it’s not turning, I can’t accelerate’.

“He told me ‘ok, now you are angry, but you need to tell me what is going on. If we need to improve something we can.’ and I thought ‘ok, this is true’. I needed to think, because when you’re angry you can’t describe your problems.”

Fabio Quartararo Petronas Yamaha MotoGP

Something that’s been well-documented in 2021 with his whole new attitude bringing increased consistency and eventual championship glory, the 22-year-old says that the lessons learned on that day are something that has stuck with him.

“This year, every time I’ve had a problem,” he explained, “like when [then-team-mate] Maverick [Vinales] was half a second faster than us in FP2 in Assen, I stayed so calm – and in the end we won the race. When you see that being calm brings you to that kind of result, you want to stay like that even if you are in a bad moment. Stay calm, and you will make a step.

“Being calm has made me grow a lot, and I think that is why this year I have stayed all calm even if in some moments I was super angry. When I finished 15th [in qualifying at Misano], I shouted and screamed, but I didn’t want to take enough risk to be in Q2 and in the end we are world champions!”

And, speaking exclusively to The Race after Sunday’s title triumph for his rider at Misano, Gubellini (pictured below) was in complete agreement with Quartararo, admitting that he’s witnessed quite the transformation in only a short period of time.

Diego Gubellini Fabio Quartararo Yamaha MotoGP

“It’s something that we discussed together many times last year,” he said, “and it’s one of the points where he has improved himself since last year. I’ve told him many things, but one thing I tell him is that you have to listen, because to try and teach him is a different story! I’m always trying to give him some advice, ‘OK for me this is the way.’

“To get the best you have to be focused on what you’re doing, without being too angry or frustrated with the result, and this is what he did. He understood that sometimes a bad week can happen, and he’s just tried to manage as much as possible these bad weekends.

“Like in Aragon, we struggled a lot there and it was difficult for us to see [Francesco] Bagnaia winning the race. But sometimes it happens, and he just stayed focused and came back in Misano and in Austin.”

And despite the strange and somewhat unexpected circumstances in which Quartararo took the title, with no one expecting an error from Pecco Bagnaia to force the Italian to concede at Misano, Gubellini is unsurprisingly thoroughly of the belief that it’s a wholly deserved honour for his rider.

“It’s a strange feeling because it was unexpected,” he admitted, expecting like everyone else that the title race would go to Portimao next week, “and it’s also strange feeling to be happy to see your competitor crash. It’s not so nice. But you realise that you get the target, you get the title, and it’s inevitable that you have to celebrate and enjoy.

Fabio Quartararo Yamaha MotoGP

“I think that he deserved the championship this year because he did a great job since the beginning. He’s improved a lot in all the areas where last year he wasn’t good enough, and this means that he’s getting stronger and stronger. He improved himself, we improved the bike together with Yamaha, and this is the natural result after the job we did.”

And while the result on the day might have been a surprise, the overall success wasn’t for Gubellini.

One of the first additions to Quartararo’s MotoGP squad and the only crew chief the Frenchman has worked with in MotoGP, he says that there’s a special way about which his rider utilises both the bike and his own skills that means he isn’t surprised by Sunday’s result.

“He’s special, definitely,” he insisted to The Race. “He is a very talented rider, and he has many positive weapons in his pocket.

“He’s a hard braker, he’s strong in corner speed, and he works a lot with his body. This is I think what all the big champions do.

“Like Marc [Marquez], like many riders; the important thing is to somehow compensate for the weak points of the bike. This is a very good thing that he has naturally, and over the season it made the difference.”

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