Fabio Quartararo is definitely a breath of fresh air in the MotoGP paddock, and his move from Petronas to the factory Yamaha team only heightens that sensation. In just two years, the Frenchman has gone from rags to riches and back, proving to be fast but perhaps not yet a real all-rounder.
He may well find the last pieces of the puzzle with the factory team, alongside Maverick Vinales, who is also ready to prove a point. “I’d like Vinales and me to be like Rossi and Lorenzo - begins Fabio - given that they were often battling for the title. I’d like to be in the winner’s shoes, so Lorenzo’s. I have a good relationship with Vinales, I think we can work well together to help Yamaha. Last year we were often in the same situation, both positively and negatively speaking, so I think we can move in the same direction. Maverick is my first rival but at the same time the first person who can help me develop the bike”.
Quartaro is also aware of the greater pressure he will be under as a factory rider but he tries to see the glass half full, and rightly so, with the hope of winning a title that Yamaha hasn’t seen since 2015.
“Joining a factory team brings added pressure, but also additional support. When I was testing in Petronas, where I had everything, I would only confirm whether the new elements worked or not. At the end of the day, the pressure of being as factory rider is a good pressure to have. What can I bring to Yamaha? Hopefully the title (he laughs). I think I’m very sentitive to modifications, which might help with the bike development. That aside, it’s hard to say what I can bring, also because many great riders have come before me, Valentino included”.
Quartararo: "I’m learning to focus only on my work"
The Frenchman’s lack of experience in fighting for a title clearly had a bearing last season, but this also helped Fabio to learn important lessons.
“Before last year, I’d never battled for a title, aside from my CEV days, and so I had many highs and lows, going from fighting for the win to tenth position. I knew the bike’s potential was diminishing and so I tried to push harder, which often had the opposite effect. I learned a lot from the experience and now know that it’s sometimes better to finish seventh than crash, something I struggled to accept last year. This is the path to be able to fight for the title”.
A team of psychologists are now helping the number 20 rider, helping Fabio to work on his mental strength, fundamental for a rider who wants to shine in a category like MotoGP.
“Firstly, I’m working on keeping calm, and focusing on myself rather than what people might be saying. Some have said I don’t have the right people around me, but I know that’s now true. The psychologists are helping me channel my strengths into my work, without trying to do more. Last year I tried to help the team from a technical standpoint, but my role is to ride and transmit the sensations I have”.
"I’ll bring a family atmosphere to the factory team"
Speaking of technical aspects, Quartararo doesn’t raise his voice with regard to the areas of the M1 that need work: “I haven’t made any particular requests to Yamaha – he confirms – but I’ve asked for more or less what all riders want, or rather rear grip and speed. In my opinion, we need to work on the bike’s aerodynamics and weight, as the M1 can definitely lose weight more easily than I can. We need to believe in Yamaha and show it, rather than opting for the simple path and complaining about what doesn’t work”.
The atmosphere in the garage also needs to be relaxed for everything to work well and Fabio hopes to contribute to this, while retaining those habits that have characterised his first two years in MotoGP.
“I think we’ll be able to work hard in the garage without losing that sense of fun, as being happy at work definitely helps. I have some new people around me, all very nice, and we’ll be able to create a family atmosphere I think. Turning the bike on myself? I’ll still do it (he laughs), I’m not the kind of rider who shoes up five minutes before the session”.
Lastly, Quartararo considers his rivals, who seem to continue to grow in number. “There are many riders to be worried about. I remember that last year at Brno all the manufacturers were up at the front, within a few tenths. Right now, improving your pace by just a few tenths is enough to become a title contender. So I’d say there are maybe 10 or 12 riders who can fight for the title”.
Translated by Heather Watson