until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


‘Something went wrong with me’ – Quartararo on his worst days

by Simon Patterson
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

When Fabio Quartararo was crowned the 2021 MotoGP world champion on Sunday at Misano, it marked, as it does for all racers, the culmination of an entire lifetime’s work towards a single goal.

But while every rider has a different path to the title, some have it easier than others – there’s no question that Quartararo’s route to the top was one of the very toughest.

He was first billed as the next big thing in motorcycle racing at only 14 years old when he first won the CEV Moto3 championship; an incredible amount of pressure to put on the shoulders of a child.

When he won the title again the following year in such a dominant fashion that MotoGP’s rules were changed to allow him to progress to world championship level a year earlier than normal, the comparisons to then-MotoGP champion Marc Marquez started, doubling down on the weight on the young Frenchman’s shoulders.

And it’s really no surprise that what followed was something of a disastrous period in his career after moving to Moto3.

Hit by injuries, team politics and technical factors out of his control, he looked like the epitome of failed potential – something that he says was all exacerbated by the pressure piling on him from fans and media.


“It was the motivation at the beginning,” he told The Race in an exclusive interview when asked about the pressures of being compared to Marquez, “but then when you get bad results it becomes a lot of pressure.

“I made bad results in 2015 and then the change of team was a bit of a mess. The results were so bad, I never won a Moto3 race. When I was in Moto3 in CEV I won nine of 11! Something went wrong with me.

”First of all the pressure that I had, then we moved team, with Leopard, and it was supposed to be Honda and then at the last minute it was KTM. I was not happy with the person who was taking care of my career.

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“When you are 15, 16, 17 and you have all this happening, it is bad – then I broke my foot. Something wasn’t right, and I think mentally I was not as strong as I am now. It took a lot of time for me to come back – even when I had a crash I was too long to come back to my pace.

“From the middle of 2015 until the end of 2017, the beginning of 2018, it was bad, really bad. It came back a little bit at the end of 2017, improving the pace, and then from Le Mans 2018 we made big steps every time. From the middle of 2015 until the end of 2017, it was difficult.”

However, things came right for the youngster at the best possible time. Finally finding his way with the Speed Up Moto2 team after a technical change for 2018, he started to display the talent that he had hinted at in the junior classes.

And, as he took his first Grand Prix win just as the fledgling Petronas Yamaha team was looking for a new rookie for 2019, the pieces slotted into place just right – and the rest is history.

“I knew that I had the potential,” Quartararo said of his Moto2 experiences, “but something was wrong with my riding style on the bike for too long.

“Then in 2018 we started with Speed Up, and that was the way forward. We went to Kayaba suspension, then we swapped to Ohlins. We started with Ohlins in Qatar and the first race was bad. But in Jerez something was still going wrong.


“I was trying to stop the bike a little more because in slow corners I was taking too much speed, and the acceleration was bad. We tried this in Jerez and we made a small step, in Mugello we were quite OK, missing speed but in the test after the race we were faster.

“The bike was kind of slow and I was joking with my crew chief to say, ‘make the bike a little bit faster and I will make the podium in Barcelona’.

“And the bike actually was a little bit faster and I won! It was a boost of confidence – you come from 10th to first, you make pole position, fastest lap, everything. In Assen I went from 10th to second and it was great for the mental side.”

And from that result came the phone call that would change everything – when Petronas team bosses Johann Stigefelt and Wilco Zeelenberg decided to take a punt on Quartararo after only two good results – a decision that left many amazed including, admittedly, the rider himself.

“I will remember all my life, coming back from Assen that Eric [Mahe, Quartararo’s manager], told me there is the possibility to go with Petronas. I was like ‘Moto2?’ and he said ‘MotoGP’ and I was like WOW,” Quartararo recalled.

“From Assen to Sachsenring it was like 10 days but it felt like a year. Every day I was waiting for a call, every day it was getting closer and I think this was giving me energy for the season and everything.

“So yes two podiums and one win, and it changed everything for my career. The synchronisation was good! Eric made magic because I was like – ‘no way’. Now we need to take this chance.”


When you look back on the sometimes-rocky road that has taken the 22-year-old to the world championship, it’s hard not to see how the challenges he’s faced have helped to shape him into the talent that he is today – and the champion that he’s just been crowned.

And even despite his incredible rookie MotoGP season, with seven pole positions and six podiums, a decidedly tougher sophomore season in 2020 also added to his learning experience as he watched a title challenge fall apart.

“The experience when I finished the 2020 season was strange,” he explained.

“We were at the front of the championship for the first nine or 10 races and then we dropped so much and had a lot of difficulties.

“I think I took the experience from last year to be more calm, to adapt myself quickly, and I think it’s not great for my results but good for my experience.”

Quartararo’s seemingly blessed with an ability to learn from his mistakes that some of his much more experienced rivals could do well to learn from. It’s something that he knows has helped him end up where he is right now, sitting on motorcycle racing’s throne.

“It’s what helped me a lot this year,” he adds. “I have a lot of confidence with the new bike and even with tough moments I remember the 2020 season that was much worse.


“So even when we struggle, and for me Sachsenring is the best example, we were fast but I was not feeling that great and we still managed to get on to the podium.

“They were tough times but I think it helped me to stay stronger for the future. I think it helped me for the experience.”

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