until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Why MotoGP’s 2021 title rivals started 2022 so underwhelmingly

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

The two riders who finished first and second in the 2021 MotoGP season did not have a particularly good first day of practice in the opening race weekend of the 2022 season, with both Fabio Quartararo and Francesco Bagnaia left wanting despite likely making Q2 at the Qatar Grand Prix.

Champion Quartararo was eighth-fastest in the FP2 session that is expected to decide who progresses to Q2 directly, while Bagnaia was 10th, just sneaking into the all-important top 10 by half a tenth of a second over Enea Bastianini’s year-old Gresini-run Ducati.


Neither was the fastest representative of their brand, with Quartararo outpaced by works Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli and Bagnaia slower than both fellow factory Ducati rider Jack Miller and Pramac standout Jorge Martin.

For Quartararo, the matter of Yamaha’s top-speed deficit that had him riled up through the off-season was clearly still playing a part, the Frenchman ending FP2 slowest of all in the speed trap, 7mph down on the 220.7mph benchmark recorded by the much-improved Suzuki of Alex Rins.

And while Quartararo described the deficit as “what I expected” and “not a surprise”, he also made it clear this wasn’t the key factor in his off-colour Friday.

“I felt much on the limit but we are not on our real limit,” he said. “Today I had a tough day because I didn’t understand a few things, and we need to check data, comparing to last year, what happened, and that’s it.

“I don’t feel myself properly on the limit today on the laptime, I feel on the limit [riding] but because we struggled, and I think we had a tough day – but this is our first day in Qatar, normally we always have tests [at this track], and today was a bit tough.

“And the top guys were really fast today. We will need to check how to improve.”

Quartararo said he was “fast in the first two sectors” and not over the rest of the lap, and said he didn’t feel “extremely safe” in terms of making Q2 – presumably fearing that the improved grip in third practice could offset the much less optimal daytime conditions.

But while the Frenchman appeared at a loss as to what exactly was the key issue, describing the situation as “something strange”, his 2021 title rival Bagnaia appeared to be more certain of why his Friday was suboptimal.


“I’m not happy about today. But just because when you do testing [work], trying a lot of things – we decided on this type of work, just to have a clear decision on the bike to use.

“And I’m not so happy about the front feeling today. Maybe the conditions were not the best but I’m quite confident about tomorrow. We already know why I was struggling a bit on the [corner] entry, so we will work on it and we already have a clear idea of what to do.

“I was not 100% comfortable riding today.”

Bagnaia had a crash in the opening session, and admitted it left him annoyed.


“I don’t like to crash in FP1 in this way – because normally FP1 and FP3 in this track is something a bit… not useless but not in the same condition of the race [daytime versus night-time].

“We have to use different tyres [than normal], and I crashed just because the front tyre was a bit cold. It’s something that can happen but it was better not to do it.”

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