Analysis

‘Humble, happy, polite’ – how Fabio Quartararo turned Yamaha into winners once more

Yamaha Managing Director Lin Jarvis and Team Manager Massimo Meregalli give their opinions on why Fabio Quartararo has been an immediate hit with the factory team.

As spectacular as he has been on track, a great deal of Fabio Quartararo’s success in 2021 is owed to how he has worked on himself off it. The Frenchman has been a man transformed this term, showcasing an unerring consistency and newfound aggression in a series of spectacular displays which won him the MotoGP title with two races to spare.

The same can be said for how he has handled himself in the garage. Some may feel a 21-year old – as Quartararo was when he first wore factory blue in March’s Qatar test – may be overawed by stepping into the surroundings Valentino Rossi had called home for a total of 15 seasons. But France’s first premier class champion took next to no time to establish himself, not only as a race winning force, but as the factory’s leading light.

The right attitude

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Emilia-Romagna Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Raul Fernandez' Crash, A Marc VDS 1-2, And How Foggia Turned His Season Around

Sunday’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix hosted three dramatic races which each had huge ramifications for each championship. Here, we take a look at the big talking points from the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Raul Tumbles…

For 14 laps on Sunday, this really looked like the race where Remy Gardner’s Moto2 title challenge would come apart. After title rival Raul Fernandez crashed out of qualifying, the Australian had a golden opportunity to gain a much-needed grid advantage. Instead, he changed front tyres mid-session, saw two of his late times chalked off because of yellow flags, and by the third his front had cooled down enough it lost optimum performance.

Sunday was looking much graver. Not only was he mired in the pack, facing a Long Lap Penalty for taking down Somkiat Chantra when contesting eighth place, Fernandez was putting in the kind of performance that confirms he is the next superstar of grand prix racing. Starting from ninth, he was on course for an eighth win of the season – a feat no rookie had achieved in the 72-year history of the intermediate class, never mind Moto2.

The Spaniard’s own weekend had been complicated. If one was to point to a weakness in his make up, Raul’s riding in wet and mixed conditions would probably be it. But he gave no ground away to Gardner all weekend. There was also the small matter of his feelings toward KTM. Veteran Spanish journalist Manuel Pecino had reported the rider from Madrid, who turned 21 on Saturday, was “angry” in the extreme at the Austrian factory’s decision to not find brother Adrian a permanent seat in the Moto3 class for 2022.

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Sunday Subscriber Notes: How Fabio Quartararo Became Champion A Race Early

I learned a new Spanish expression today. "Hasta el rabo todo es toro", which translates roughly as "the bull goes all the way to the tail". It's an expression which comes from bullfighting (a misnomer: it is bullying, not fighting, with a large band of armed hooligans ganging up on a single bull, rather than a toreador going head to head with a single bull; for that reason, I am always, always Team Bull) which means you can't trust the bull until you are sure it is dead. It ain't over until it's over. And sometimes it is over before you realize.

Sunday at Misano 2 was the proof of that. It was a day of unexpected outcomes, of shock twists just when you thought everything was done and dusted. As the late, great Nicky Hayden said to me after I had asked a particularly stupid question at Indy many years ago, "that's why we line up on Sunday: you never know what's going to happen."

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Saturday Round Up: First vs Fifteenth, Getting Heat Into Tires, And Yellow Flag Rules

It has been (and probably will be) a very odd weekend. Normally, grand prix weekends have a narrative, a story that builds like a novel, or a compositional structure that grows and swells like a symphony or an opera. Each part leads to the next: test parts and setup in FP1, work on tires in FP2, chase a spot in Q2 in FP3, work on race pace and tire wear in FP4, go for grid positions during qualifying, all building toward the dramatic crescendo of the race. Race weekends tell a story, and like all good stories, they have an internal narrative logic.

Not Misano 2. This feels more like a series of one-act plays, with the same characters but a different storyline every day. Friday was mostly soaking wet, with riders looking at wet tires. Saturday was wet in the morning, and a drying track in the afternoon. Sunday will be dry, probably sunny, but very cold. Each day feels unconnected to the next.

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Friday Round Up: Lessons Not Learned, Yamaha vs Ducati In The Wet, And Making Racing Safer In The Future

It has been something of an irrelevant day at Misano. On Friday morning, the track was soaking, rain keeping it wet. In the afternoon, it started off wet but a dry line started to form. "At the end, the last 10 minutes to go, we had one dry line, but lap by lap it was getting wider," was how Takaaki Nakagami described it. With damp conditions expected on Saturday, and a cold and dry Sunday, nothing of importance was learned on Friday.

It was a wasted day in terms of finding race setup, perhaps, but it was still useful in overall terms. MotoGP is full of young riders who haven't had all that much time in the wet, and so Friday offered a chance to gain some valuable experience. "Not a wasted day because I don’t have so much experience in wet conditions, and a day like this is good for me," Suzuki's Joan Mir said. "I improved a lot and could understand. When I started in MotoGP, from then to now I ride in a different way and I am able to be a lot more strong."

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Emilia-Romagna MotoGP Thursday Round Up: Managing The Title Fight, A Fond Farewell, And Ducati's Electric Future

Of necessity, the past two MotoGP seasons have seen races repeatedly run on the same race track. 2020 was a succession of back-to-back races at the same track: Jerez 1 and 2, Austria 1 and 2, Misano 1 and 2, Aragon 1 and 2, Valencia 1 and 2. With a better grip on the Covid-19 pandemic, 2021 was much better: the first 15 races have been at 13 different tracks. So far we have only had Qatar 1 and 2 and Austria 1 and 2.

The next three rounds will see MotoGP visit just one new circuit. We have the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell'Emilia-Romagna, or Misano 2, the Grande Prémio do Algarve, or Portimão 2, and then Valencia. But where Misano 2 and Portimão 2 differ from, say, Qatar 2 and Austria 2, is that they are not being held the week after. Misano 2 is happening five weeks after Misano 1, and with a race in Austin having taken place. Portimão 2 is even more distant, with nearly seven months and 13 races between the two rounds in Portugal.

So the Misano 2 of 2021 will be very different to the Misano 2 of 2020. Last year, the weather was pretty much identical between the two races at the Italian round. This year, air temperature at Misano 2 could be as much as 11°C lower than it was when we raced here five weeks ago. That could have a massive impact on track temperatures too; the asphalt might be 20°C rather than 29°C.

A change is as good as a rest

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Decline And Fall: Explaining Valentino Rossi's Final Year In MotoGP

Though there will still be two more races for Valentino Rossi after Emilia-Romagna round of MotoGP, Rossi's second home race feels like the grand finale to his career. Misano is just a few kilometers from Tavullia, where he grew up, and where he lives and trains. And it is a track where he has seen some success in recent years, winning races and finishing on the podium.

After Misano, we head to Portimão, which has only been on the calendar since last year, and to Valencia, historically one of Rossi's worst tracks, with mostly unhappy memories. So if there is to be a grand farewell for the most significant figure in motorcycle racing, and arguably, in all of motorsports, it is more likely to come at Misano, with Portimão and Valencia served up as an encore.

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Austin Moto2 & Moto3 Review: Neil Morrison On Moto3 Mayhem, Gardner's First Mistake, Fenati On Moving Up, And Beaubier Finding His Feet

After a dramatic weekend, we look at some of the big stories coming out of the Grand Prix of the Americas in the Moto2 and Moto3 classes.

Moto3 – time to draw the line

As the Moto3 near miss was covered in some detail in David’s subscriber notes piece earlier this week, I’ll keep this brief. The two-race suspension handed out to Deniz Öncü came at a time when motorcycle racing had been thrown into a period of introspection. The deaths of Dean Berta Viñales in the World Supersport 300 race at Jerez the previous week, Jason Dupasquier in Moto3 qualifying for the Italian GP in June and Hugo Millan at a European Talent Cup meant three teenagers lost their lives in four months.

For this to happen in 2021 is unsustainable. We can’t be in a situation when events like these are happening with the kind of regularity we’ve seen throughout this season. The FIM Stewards had been scratching their heads to find a solution to irresponsible riding for years. Disqualification or suspensions were always the last resort. But, as Valentino Rossi said, “the situation is out of control.” Therefore, it must be dealt with in the strongest possible way.

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Austin MotoGP Subscriber Notes: The Near Tragedy In Moto3, Marquez Still Fast Going Left, And Quartararo Tightens His Grip On The 2021 Crown

Sunday was a busy day for motorcycle racing fans. WorldSBK from Portimão, MXGP in Teutschenthal, Germany, BSB from Donington Park, and probably some more that went unnoticed in the hectic schedule. There was a lot of racing to take in, even for the most ardent and completist fan.

The action in Europe was thrilling, WorldSBK turning into the most exciting and tensest racing on the planet right at this moment, and then the racing world turned its attention to the United States of America, where the Grand Prix paddock had set up shop at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas.

The racing in Austin was a good deal less scintillating. With the exception of the terror and drama of Moto3 – more on that later – both the Moto2 and MotoGP races were, frankly, dull, decided in the first few corners. Not that there wasn't anything of interest that happened: in Moto3 and Moto2, the championship gaps closed, in Moto2 significantly after Remy Gardner crashed out, his first mistake of the season, while in MotoGP, Marc Marquez returned to winning ways while Fabio Quartararo put one hand on the title.

But the process by which we reached this point was not exciting, in any shape or form. The field was quickly strung out – even in Moto3, at least by its own standards – and the battles for position were few and far between. After the shocking crash in Moto3, the dullness of the Moto2 and MotoGP races was rather welcome.

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Austin MotoGP Saturday Round Up: New Surface Needed, More Speed Than Ever, And Predicting The Last Rider Standing

It has been four years since anyone lapped the Circuit of The Americas quite so rapidly. In 2018 and 2019, nobody, not even Marc Marquez, managed to get under the 2'03s. So it is a testament to how much faster the MotoGP riders are going that two riders managed it on Saturday in Austin. And this, despite the fact that the track has become so much more bumpy in the past couple of years.

So bumpy, in fact, that it appears as if the circuit has been issued an ultimatum: resurfaces the section from the exit of Turn 1 all the way through Turn 10, or MotoGP is not coming back. Though riders try not to talk to the media about what was discussed in the Safety Commission, the body in which the MotoGP riders can talk to Dorna and the FIM about safety issues, so that they can speak freely, it was obvious there was only one topic of discussion in the meeting: the bumps which have rendered the track so dangerous that there were calls by some riders not to race at all on Sunday.

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