until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Boring? Why Quartararo rejected a Marquez-style gamble

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Last year, Fabio Quartararo - probably pound-for-pound the best MotoGP rider in the 2020-22 span, and maybe even by a lot - had a very conspicuous absence from the weekend-to-weekend battle out front.

This has not been the case this year, but not because Quartararo and Yamaha have returned to the front. Instead, the continued struggles of the M1 bike have become the new normal, to the point that a rider once seen as the series' strongest qualifier is now arguably more notable when he makes Q2 than when he misses it.

Given that Quartararo himself didn't feel he'd declined - and given he was very open in his frustrations about the state of Yamaha's MotoGP machine - it would've seemed the team had a dreadfully difficult mission on its hands to keep hold of him. And yet, mission accomplished.

It didn't exactly come out of nowhere, either, as the signs had been pointing to it for some time. The closer things got to 'crunch time' for MotoGP 2025 talks, the more Quartararo's tone towards Yamaha seemed to soften (if not necessarily change) - and the more his hypothetical alternatives started to look impossible.

The Frenchman has continued to fire off the occasional soundbite about how far off the current M1 is, but otherwise largely shifted his rhetoric from what Yamaha needed to prove to what it was already showing him.

Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha, MotoGP

And that needn't be seen as facetious. The top speed upgrade he had been crying out for has come with what is the first Yamaha engine its ex-F1 hire Luca Marmorini has properly worked on. And Quartararo's enthusiasm for the impact Ducati convert Max Bartolini can have on the operational side has reliably come across as incredibly genuine.

But if it is to be seen as a vote of confidence, that's only partial. The market was just not there compared to the interest Quartararo could've warranted.

The works Ducati is the ride to have, but there's already a line spanning several blocks for that one. KTM is increasingly attractive, but its rider future is now well and truly sorted - thanks partly to rookie Pedro Acosta's emergence.

Aprilia was known to have an interest, but while there's good reason to believe it will have offered an immediate competitive upgrade (let's see how the rest of the year pans out, but it seems likely), that would've come - or so the rumour goes - with a significant financial trade-off.

That clearly is not the only thing that matters, and it may well not be the main thing, either. Certainly it wasn't for Marc Marquez - the rider who had found himself in an even more extreme version of Quartararo's early-2024 crossroads last year, and responded by taking the plunge.

Marquez gave up a lucrative fourth year with Honda to ride a year-old Ducati. On current evidence, Quartararo going for an Aprilia - or even going hunting for a year-old Ducati of his own - would've represented a similar type of decision.

But Quartararo does not have Marquez's career earnings, nor his relentless sense of urgency. It is never safe to assume, but the 24-year-old is likely convinced that, one way or another, his time to win will come again.

Marquez wasn't, at all. He made that clear. His move to Gresini was about rediscovering a certain joy in MotoGP, yes, but also clearly about the dread of 'Father Time'. He has been remarkably open about that - and while he's only 31, only seven years older than Quartararo, his brutal arm injury from 2020 probably tacks on a handful of years in his head.

Marc Marquez, Gresini, MotoGP

Gresini was no guarantee of a title bid for Marquez - that much is clear now, even if he's started the season pretty well. But it was just about the chance of doing something somewhere towards the front.

Quartararo is not in that kind of place in his career, for all of his obvious competitive impatience. And Aprilia is no surefire thing, no more than a year-old Ducati.

The RS-GP is an enviable bike, which could've won in Qatar and did win at Portimao (there is no scenario in which the current M1 would've won anything at either), and Quartararo would probably back himself to lift it higher than the current works line-up of Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales - but a move would not make him a title favourite.

And because of this, you can certainly see a Yamaha stay as the pragmatic choice to make. It is more lucrative; in an organisation with a track record for championships; in a team with a title sponsor (unlike Aprilia), and a big one at that; with serious investments being made before Quartararo's very eyes; with a new MotoGP concession ruleset that exists to shortcut Yamaha's (and Honda's) path back towards the top.

It is not hard to see how this, for Quartararo, can represent a clearer path to winning week-in, week-out again even outside of financial considerations - even if that path might take until the start of the next regulations cycle in 2027.

It is not the romantic choice. It is, almost inarguably, the boring choice. But it is a hard one to fault.

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