until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Quartararo’s Yamaha MotoGP frustration reaches a new phase

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Fabio Quartararo’s barely concealed off-season frustration over Yamaha’s seeming lack of MotoGP progress must’ve surely at one point got grating for the team chiefs and engineers.

But there was something equally, if not more, disheartening about the reigning world champion’s relatively chilled reaction to qualifying a lowly 11th for the Qatar Grand Prix opener.

“I’m just a rider that is on the bike,” he said. “I push myself 100%, coming into Qatar I expected much better but like always on the [race] pace I’m fast, but… looking at qualifying, let’s say I am not super angry because I know I did my best and I cannot do much better.”

A glass-half-full reading of Quartararo’s demeanour might suggest that he’s accepted the situation and managed to put the frustration aside.

But the acceptance can also be perceived as resignation. After all, the fact Yamaha’s talisman is not “super angry” after qualifying so far down at a track that has been usually kind to the M1 does not bode well.

Especially because he’s clearly right not to be “super angry” because the single-lap pace has looked missing for much of the weekend, leading to a rare Q1 appearance and the narrowest of escapes – remember, had Johann Zarco’s lap not been chalked off due to yellow-flag infringements, Quartararo would not have made it to Q2.

Instead he did, and in the end handily bested team-mate Franco Morbidelli, having looked on the back foot compared to the Italian on Friday. And yet this was still some 0.624s off pole as the top Yamaha – no other manufacturer was further back than 0.396s off. That’s a difference of two tenths, which is not much, but also a difference of 58%, which is a lot.

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And unlike the Q1-stranded Andrea Dovizioso of RNF Yamaha, who felt his current Yamaha style was compromised by the windy conditions, Quartararo didn’t feel out of sorts.

It was particularly telling that, when asked by Jack Miller “what went wrong?” in a post-qualifying chat overheard by my colleague Simon Patterson, Quartararo replied: “Nothing, that’s the problem” loud enough to be heard by those around them in the paddock.

“I feel great on the bike,” he said when asked about the top speed deficit, before stressing several times that he’s just a rider who “gives his 100% every time”.


A potential mitigating factor was the condition of the track, given there were not five days of pre-season testing in Losail like last year, thereby almost certainly limiting the grip. That kind of thing does often hit Yamaha harder than others.

“We know that when we don’t have the rear grip, we are struggling so much, and I think that we have no margin to put more power [down] in some accelerations.

“Then the bike is totally shaking, but I mean, this is because I put myself on the limit. And when you put yourself in the limit, at the end you arrive to one moment where the bike is not really stable anymore.

“At the end, if the bike is shaking, I’m on the limit, but for me the main difference is the rear grip that is missing on the track, and we know that it’s a weak point for us. I would say that’s the main issue.”

Rivals like Marc Marquez and Joan Mir made sure to point out that Quartararo’s race pace still looked very competitive, something that the Frenchman himself has also flagged up.

And it is true that in last year’s second Qatar race, the Doha Grand Prix, he ran as low as ninth before methodically working his way through to the front to win – so an 11th-place starting position needn’t be a complete disaster.

But it is also true that the Yamaha doesn’t have the straightline speed to blow past people – especially now that the Suzukis have left it well behind in the top speed competition between the inline-fours – and that Quartararo’s record when he starts outside the first two rows is distinctly not great. It reads as follows: a fourth, a fifth, two sixths, two sevenths, a 13th, a 14th and three DNFs.

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“To be honest, this track, I think it’s a track where we just need to make a perfect first lap, but then – last year I was P9 almost all the race and then I could overtake,” Quartararo said. “But things change, bikes improve.

“So… we will see. On the pace I’m actually not feeling so bad.

“I will push myself to the limit, while also taking care of the tyres – will not be an easy job.”

Not all is lost, by any means. But Quartararo is clearly not entering the season the way he had wanted.

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