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Why Quartararo is ‘Kimi mode’ about his future despite win

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Has Fabio Quartararo’s Portuguese Grand Prix walkover injected some clarity into his MotoGP future beyond 2022? According to him, it has not.

Quartararo was in complete control during MotoGP’s fourth-ever visit to Portimao, effectively replicating his performance at the same track in April of last year in winning by over four seconds.

It marked the reigning champion’s first win since Silverstone in August of last year, and elevated him to the top of the standings – albeit with Suzuki’s Alex Rins on the same amount of points.

Fabio Quartararo Yamaha MotoGP

But when asked by The Race’s Simon Patterson whether the Portimao win will make it easier for him to take a decision on his next MotoGP contract, Quartararo responded with a straight-to-the-point “no”.

A long pause followed as he subsequently laughed, before saying he had gone into “Kimi mode” – referencing the famously taciturn 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Raikkonen.

Quartararo did not therefore elaborate on what his thinking was on 2023 and beyond, but his other answers after Portimao gave a pretty strong indication of where he stood.

The Frenchman has struggled to hide his frustration over Yamaha’s start to the season, with subpar outings in Qatar and Austin – two venues where he’d been strong in the past – casting a particularly big shadow.

“Qatar was tough because last year we won, [this year] we finished ninth,” said Quartararo.

“Austin seventh [this year], and last year we finished second. But I was riding really good, I have nothing to say about my riding style. For sure you can always improve, but here is a track that I like, was from my side a lot of grip.”

Fabio Quartararo Yamaha MotoGP

Quartararo’s main gripe in 2022 has been with a perceived lack of development of the M1 bike, and particularly its top speed, which he again referenced as the big shortcoming after the Portuguese GP.

This may have seemed strange given his win was secured with a fourth-lap slipstream pass on the main straight versus Suzuki’s Joan Mir, but Quartararo attributed that to the fact he could carry a huge amount of speed through the sweeping Turn 15 left-hander that concludes the lap at Portimao.

“It’s true that today I impressed myself quite a lot to make almost all the race in 1m39s [laps], and if I had the pressure from someone behind for sure I could manage to get 1m39s all the race.”

There are many layers of context to Quartararo’s win. One of them is that the next-best Yamaha, that of Andrea Dovizioso, was an attrition-aided 11th. Another was that between his 2021 Portimao win and his 2022 Portimao win, there was another Portuguese GP at the track in the autumn, and he didn’t go so well that time.

Fabio Quartararo Yamaha MotoGP

This particular success did appear to bring out more emotion from Quartararo than most – and when asked why, he said: “It’s quite a long time that I had not achieved victory. But also the tough times this year – it’s short times, it’s four races, but you know, when you won the championship, you always want to fight again for the championship.

“And for me it was tough to accept that I was happy to finish seventh in Austin. Because I improved a lot my pace from the previous year, we have not made a massive improvement on the bike, we know how it’s going on… so of course it’s tough for me to see the team applauding me for seventh. In my mind seventh is not good.”

The 2022 Yamaha has clearly not been as good as Quartararo wanted – but this weekend will have reinforced something he already seemed to believe, which is that on the right track layout he could still do great things with it. While speaking again about his desire for more top speed, he acknowledged that “our bike is fantastic”.

“I never said that the bike was not working. If it’s not working, you don’t fight for this kind of position.”

Fabio Quartararo Yamaha MotoGP

Quartararo has vowed to bide his time in deciding which team to sign with after his current Yamaha deal expires at the end of the year. Arguably, it would have actually made his decision much easier if he struggled again in Portimao.

But he didn’t, at all. And having already experienced huge highs and big lows in 2022, Quartararo has a lot of analysing to do over whether the Yamaha package is versatile enough to keep him in the hunt in each of the coming seasons – and whether there are other packages, like Honda’s all-new RC213V, that can offer him a better baseline level.

It’s no big shock that he isn’t willing to share his thoughts on that conundrum just yet.

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