until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Quartararo interview: What Yamaha must do to keep him

by Simon Patterson
7 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

It’s fair to say that the 2023 MotoGP season was not a good one for 2021 world champion Fabio Quartararo.

The factory Yamaha rider went without a win this season and, amid deep-rooted problems with the M1 machine, he managed to score just three podiums from the series’ longest-ever season on his way to his worst MotoGP championship finish in 10th.

“It was difficult,” Quartararo admitted of his year when he sat down with The Race for an exclusive interview at the season's end, “especially the first part of the season when I didn’t really accept the position that I was finishing in.

“The second part was much better, especially because my expectation was a little bit lower than last year, than two years ago. Finishing in the top five for me at the minute is a really great result, so I’ve made a few of them in the last races and I think we’ve made a step.

“Hopefully we can keep going like that, and improving. But it was a really tough season, especially mentally.”

That’s no surprise to anyone who watched it from the outside, either. Quartararo isn’t normally the sort to hide his emotions away, and the 24-year-old was more than happy to air his grievances on multiple occasions, especially in the early part of the season when things were particularly troubling.

“I wasn’t even enjoying life," he conceded. "I was coming home obsessed with why things weren’t working, where we can improve. I wasn’t enjoying it on the track or even at home.

“I said to myself 'OK, we have to make a change', because it was half a season, three or four months, and it felt like three years.

“This is what I wanted to change, and it has helped me a lot mentally to stay more focused, to be much more easy and happy with the results that I make. If I give my 100%, but it’s P7, then I have to be happy with what I have made.”

But while that all sounds very much like someone close to giving up on the project, it seems, much to the relief of Yamaha as we prepare to enter a year where most contracts are to be renegotiated, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Because while Quartararo might have finished the season very much on a low note, he’s adamant that things are ever so slightly starting to look up for him and his factory.

The post-season test in Valencia didn't reveal massive changes - as Quartararo expected - though, with Yamaha's programme focused on aero, Quartararo was tentatively positive about the progress made.

Beyond specific improvements, though, he said he'd seen a new fire inside the factory as it not only looks to change the bike but also the whole team structure.

“I think the mentality is starting to be a little bit more like the European [one],” he explained, “and this is something that I like.

"This is something that with the people they hire, even if they’re people from Europe, they listen much more to the people from outside Japan.

“At the end, if you need help you have to listen to other people and I think in the past they used to listen only to Yamaha people.

“Now they’re much more open, and I think this is a big change for Yamaha. This is what I see differently, and for sure from now until March of next year it will be a massive change also.

“From this moment, from November until February, this is when they really have to make the biggest job they've ever done.

“Of course they will have the pressure, but you also have to be able to perform under pressure. Not only us.”

Where that pressure needs to be applied is abundantly clear to Quartararo, too.

Not just looking for better engine performance like he’s been demanding for months, he sounds well-aware that it’s the whole M1 package that has been left behind by MotoGP’s aerodynamics and ride height device war - and that an all-round effort is needed to close the gap.

“Acceleration, aero, the devices, the turning,” he listed off when asked where the bike needs to improve.

“They have to come back with the turning that we had in the past. Already with what we had in the past and with the aero a bit better, and more power, we would have improved a lot.

“Then of course there’s the devices and everything else are something that’s important but it’s more to be able to ride a little more confidently, to have an automatic device and not pressing it every time in a difficult part of the track.

“I really hope that they will bring something big, especially for Malaysia.”

While there have been some signs that Yamaha is willing to do things a little differently, especially with a number of promising European-based signings on the engineering side, there’s also a chance for some help along the way as new team-mate Alex Rins joins the squad and Yamaha gains concession status for the first time.

Coming from Suzuki via an injury-hit year at Honda in 2023, Rins is more than familiar with the challenges of turning an inline-four engined MotoGP machine into a title contender and race winner, and it’s clear that Quartararo is very much looking forward to having some fresh experience on the other side of the box after a premier-class career so far mainly spent alongside the now-departed Franco Morbidelli.

“Experience,” he insisted when asked what the biggest attribute Rins brings to the team. "He will have a lot, especially because he rode Suzuki in 2022, Honda in 2023 and [now] Yamaha in 2024. I think that it is going to be super important to listen to his comments.

“And then, of course, Alex is a super strong rider and I think that we can push each other to be faster. I like that.

“It’s important he has the experience [of the inline four]. For the understanding of Yamaha, it was a good thing, and unfortunately he was injured [this year] but he will still bring great experience.”

As part of its new concession benefits, Yamaha is able to not only bring in-season engine upgrades (and one extra new front fairing relative to the European brands) but also to have both Quartararo and Rins test freely during the season.

“It can be a huge difference,” Quartararo said of concession status, “but Yamaha in these months have to test. More engines, more testing, me testing - but we have to be clever and bring a lot of stuff.

“This means that the time we have to build everything must be super quick. Not like before when we always do things six months too late. I will not do a test if we have nothing to try, and I think they understand this.

“We have made a big step, and we need to continue to work like this. In racing, if there is something that is working, then you needed to have it yesterday. You don’t need to wait three or four months, and I think this is a step that Yamaha needs to understand.

“Maybe it’s a small thing, but lots of small things in the end is something big. This is how it will change our improvements in the future.”

And while his own future is still far from certain as he goes into 2024 prepared to explore other options beyond Yamaha, it really does sound like his priority is to stay - at least if Yamaha can deliver what he needs to be competitive again.

“My future will be decided, of course, next year [2024],” he said. “I don’t know when, but Yamaha is doing something that I’ve never seen. They’ve really put a lot of effort to try and improve the bike.

“I don’t know if they can do it or not, but I mean of course they are stepping up what they’ve always done and this is something that I like to see.

“But of course I want to see some results also. They have hired a lot of people, but I want to see some improvement and that will decide my future.

“If it’s an idea, it will maybe be April, May, June, July. Basically this period of time will be the time to say left or right, but I will need time also to see the project and how Yamaha will work.

“How the concessions will work, because normally if you have money to invest with concessions it must also be fast so that you can see some improvements soon.

“There are many factors that we have, and I think that it’ll be important to see all of them.

“Right now, we are basically in the top 10 but of course my personal goal is to be world champion because I am a winner.

"But realistically, fighting for the top three or four in the championship next year will be something huge.

"Hopefully we can do it.”

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