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MotoGP

Quartararo’s ‘really good day’ widens his MotoGP title path

by Valentin Khorounzhiy, Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Fabio Quartararo’s 2022 MotoGP title dream requires a pair of Valencia outcomes that appear unlikely – but, as of Friday, the Yamaha man at least showed he has the potential to hold up his end of the bargain.

Quartararo needs to win and for points leader Francesco Bagnaia to score one point or fewer to be successful in his title defence, and the former has almost felt the more implausible of the two coming into the weekend given Bagnaia’s employer Ducati scored a dominant 1-2-3 at the Circuit Ricardo Tormo the year prior.

But Quartararo expressed a confidence before Friday that a harder tyre allocation from Michelin compared to last year would make him more competitive at a track where he shone in his rookie 2019 season.

And though he ended Friday practice only eighth-fastest (though just two tenths off), he spent most of the day towards the top of the timing screens – and stressed that he was feeling “much better than last year”.

“It’s good to have the hard front [compound] because in Thailand – I don’t know if many people used it, but I was one of them, and even for the pace it’s a big help,” Quartararo said.

“A few things we need to improve because also with the wings we have this year we still have some margin in some accelerations. I think it was a really good day today.”

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Quartararo’s Friday is, of course, only encouraging in the context of the Valencia weekend from last year. It is otherwise simply deja vu – with Quartararo no stranger in 2022 to showing off great race pace when riding alone in practice but struggling to match the Ducatis in qualifying and getting boxed in, in the pack on Sundays.

“We’re struggling on those one laps, and Fabio can’t understand why he’s losing two tenths immediately when he’s been fastest, let’s say, in the whole session,” said Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow.

“I feel I understand – but we need to improve for tomorrow for him to qualify on the front row, let’s say.”

VR46 rider Luca Marini, who topped Friday, explained Ducati’s qualifying supremacy in particular as a combination of the Desmosedici “needing a bit more grip to use our power” and “being so strong in braking” and also the power and traction settings available for a single lap.

“I am used to it,” Quartararo said. “It’s one full year I am used to this. In one lap, I don’t know – when they [the Ducatis] put that soft tyre for a few laps, they have an extra grip that we don’t have. For sure extra power also.

“But… I think even today we worked pretty well. Because, for sure we can improve a few things, with these wings like I said, but on the pace I feel we were really strong.

“For sure some riders made one lap faster, but I made – every time I was going out, I was pushing like hell, not doing mistakes. And we have I think a little bit of margin in some areas for the pace.”

There is also a complication in Quartararo finding it “really difficult” to engage his ride height device due to his fractured middle finger on the left hand – but this doesn’t seem to have affected his pace at all.

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“In the afternoon with 16 laps on the tyre I was doing [1m]31.3[s], 31.2. I’m confident for tomorrow.”

He told MotoGP.com: “Qualifying will be the most important thing. Then the pace, we have it. To be honest, if we make a great start, I think we can fight for the victory.”

The question, therefore, is where Quartararo needs to qualify to make that possible.

Marini suggested that “the only way to make a good race on Sunday is to start in the first row”.

“This track is very unique, it’s difficult to overtake for everybody,” he said.

“If you start in the first three positions and you make a good start, it’s much easier, the race.

“If you can do a good start, the second row is [also] okay. It’s important to stay in the top four position at the end of the first two-three laps.”

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