Fabio Quartararo has put his current MotoGP employer Yamaha on notice, making it abundantly clear that it has only a month to make substantial improvements to its troublesome M1 machine if it wants to keep him for the long term.
So with time ticking away before that deadline expires, Yamaha’s rivals should be paying close attention given the opportunity they have to poach one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Quartararo is signed up on a two-year deal that will keep him as a Yamaha rider until at least the end of next season, so his immediate future is set.
Beyond that, it’s all open, and with decisions about 2025 and beyond set to be made early next year, it means that there really isn’t too long before the 2021 MotoGP world champion (who now represents himself personally) starts talking to teams.
He’s hinted in the past, though, that Yamaha (like Honda with Marc Marquez) doesn’t even have that long to go until a decision has to be made, and that the actual deadline is much sooner, thanks to the compressed nature of MotoGP development.
He’ll get his first chance to ride something close to a 2024-spec machine in only a month’s time, with a one-day post-race test at Misano his only opportunity before the championship concludes to anticipate the future state of play with Yamaha.
If his comments from last weekend at the British Grand Prix are anything to go by, he won’t take long to make up his mind.
“In the Misano test I want to have proof,” Quartararo told Motorsport Spain last weekend at Silverstone.
“They have a month. Yamaha has been promising me things for three years in a 10-page PDF document, of which nine-and-a-half pages are not fulfilled. This year I did not want to see that PDF.
“I don’t want to see written things, what I want to see is the Misano bike, because that will be, at 95%, the one that will run in 2024.
“There it will be seen if Yamaha really wants me for the future.”
That should serve as a stark warning to his employer about what it needs to do to keep him (if it’s even possible at this state to make enough radical changes should Yamaha have not already done so).
But Yamaha shouldn’t be the only MotoGP manufacturer paying attention to his comments, because for one other in particular it offers a rare opportunity.
Come the end of 2024, it’s hard to see Ducati looking outside its own pool of talent should it need to replace a factory rider, given that both Marco Bezzecchi and Jorge Martin are primed to step up to replace either Enea Bastianini or Pecco Bagnaia on the off chance that their services are required.
The same applies to KTM, where the likely replacement for either Brad Binder or Jack Miller is surely rising superstar Pedro Acosta, who looks set to become a MotoGP rookie in 2024.
And at Honda, things are in an even worse mess than at Yamaha, with no sight in end as it tries to dig itself out of a pit of despair that makes things at its fellow Japanese brand look relatively upbeat by comparison, as proved by Alex Rins’ decision to ditch his LCR Honda contract halfway through and make the move to Yamaha as Quartararo’s team-mate for next season.
That leaves only one realistic option for Quartararo should the 24-year-old really want to leave Yamaha and find a better bike: Aprilia.
With a bike that isn’t just among the best on the grid right now but which also plays to Quartararo’s style as a late braker, the transition made by the likes of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales from inline four bikes like the M1 to MotoGP’s friendliest V4 engine also hints that Quartararo wouldn’t struggle too much in a swap.
And moreover, with Espargaro already confirming exclusively to The Race earlier this year that he is most likely set to retire at the end of next year, it means that there’s an empty space not just for another works rider at Aprilia but for someone to take over the mantle of team leader – a role that Quartararo with his factory Yamaha experience would slot right into.
Given the quality of the RS-GP right now, especially in comparison to the M1, it probably won’t mean that Aprilia have to make too strong of a pitch for Quartararo’s services.
Sure, more money would likely need to be found – but that will be easier to wrest out of parent group Piaggio’s board following repeated successes like Espargaro’s superb Silverstone victory.
It doesn’t hurt that he and Quartararo are good friends as well as Andorran neighbours, and it wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve seen Espargaro take the lead in rider recruitment for Aprilia – he is, after all, a fundamental part of the story that brought Vinales to the team.
In theory, it has all the hallmarks of a match made in heaven – as long as Aprilia can continue on its current trajectory in order to highlight to Quartararo that there are options outside of Japan to help him get back to winning ways.