MotoGP. Fabio Quartararo, the reasons for a frustrating season

Fabio Quartararo will have tried everything, this Sunday during the Valencia Grand Prix, to prevent the Italian Francesco Bagnaia from winning his first MotoGP world championship title. But the 4e place du Français will unfortunately not have been enough, as one might expect, as the feat seemed insurmountable. This final defeat of the Niçois is ultimately only the reflection of a season where he will have fought every weekend to compensate for the weaknesses of a Yamaha below its competitors, especially in a straight line.

The engine, a major distraction at the start of the season

From the first Grand Prix of the season, in Qatar, « El Diablo » expressed his concern about the performance of his machine, a point on which he focused his attention, perhaps a little too much, by his own admission. « We had bad news about the bike, and the start of the season was not so good, he rewound, Thursday at a press conference. I complained a lot, because after spending a lot of time working on the engine, we couldn’t find a solution. So I wasn’t totally focused like I should have been. »

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This disappointment with his team even pushed him to wait to extend his contract – which he will finally do at the beginning of June – after obtaining serious guarantees of improvement for the years to come.

If he quickly took the lead in the world championship thanks to his regularity, and three victories (Portugal, Catalonia, Germany), « El Diablo » however complained of having to constantly flirt with the limit to keep up with the competition, while having the certainty of receiving very little improvement by the end of the season. « We stayed at the same level, while a lot of drivers and manufacturers took a small step forward, he conceded. Then we made mistakes. »

A tumble in eight races

From the Dutch Grand Prix, in fact, Fabio Quartararo completely lost his footing, committing a first error and his first zero point of the season. Complicated races ensued, three blank results and a low number of points scored, the complete opposite of Francesco Bagnaia. While he had a 91-point lead over the Ducati rider after ten races, in the next eight he only scored 47, and finally gave up his place as leader in the standings at the end of the Grand Prix. ‘Australia.

It is clear that Francesco Bagnaia was simply the strongest and made up for his mistakes in the second half of the season. “Honestly, “Pecco” was incredible (8 podiums including 5 wins in the last ten races), confirmed the Frenchman at the microphone of Canal+ this week-end. They improved so much that I put myself at the limit to try to be at their level, I made mistakes, and I think it’s a bit normal. »

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For Razlan Razali, owner of the satellite team WithU Yamaha RNF, and first boss of Fabio Quartararo when he was playing for Yamaha Petronas (2019-2020), the French rider’s slump is thus different from that observed in 2020 when he lost the title to Joan Mir, also in the second half of the season. This defeat was more psychological according to him, unlike this year, where he had the experience of his coronation in 2021.

“We must not forget that the 2020 and 2021 motorcycles were probably the most successful Yamahas, he recalls. Ducati has caught up in terms of development. When you fight too much with others to keep up with them, it can affect you mentally. But Fabio has done very well to get to where he is on his own. He was so capable of doing more, but he just needed more support from the technical side of Yamaha. »

This lack of competitiveness of the Yamahas is also one of the reasons why the Malaysian boss has chosen to engage with Aprilia from 2023. Engaged in the premier category with machines from the brand in tune since 2019, he ensures that “It was a challenge trying to convince the Japanese to get the Yamaha to be more competitive. With the exception of Suzuki, which is much more open to winning, Honda and Yamaha are far behind European counterparts Ducati, Aprilia and KTM. It’s in their culture, and it’s very difficult to convince them. Hopefully, with the situation, they will be convinced that they need to do more. »

Weak on-track support

As a direct consequence of the performance gap between Yamaha and the rest of the field, the Niçois has never been able to benefit from any support from the other riders of the brand in tune. Apart from a 7e place in Indonesia, as well as a 9e in Valencia for Franco Morbidelli, neither the Italian nor Darryn Binder, Andrea Dovizioso or Cal Crutchlow managed to climb into the top 10 in the race or in practice.

“It was of course difficult for Fabio. When he fights with eight Ducatis, and sometimes a Honda or Suzuki or two, you know he needs strong support from his teammate and the satellite team. But we couldn’t give it to him, because the difference between Fabio and the others, including Franco, was too big for us to even help him, sorry Razlan Razali. To get where he is, to be the only one fighting among the other Ducatis, is a huge effort. »

In 2023, this situation should not improve since Yamaha will now be the only factory to field only two machines on the grid. For his part, Fabio Quartararo repeated that he was not really concerned about this aspect. During the last official tests, the Yamaha riders got a taste of the 2023 prototype of their machine, the feedback was generally positive, especially on the engine side. « They knew very well that I was very close to leaving, so they changed their mentality, took a group of Italian engineers, developed the engine more, and for next year there will be a change »finally reassured Quartararo at theAFP. In 2022, the French public will once again be able to count on « El Diablo » to once again take center stage in the queen category.

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