Are Yamaha Better Off Putting All Their Eggs In Fabio Quartararo's Basket?

Is the 2022 Yamaha M1 a good MotoGP bike? It is a simple question with a simple answer: it depends. If Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is good enough to have won two races, get on the podium in three others, and lead the 2022 MotoGP championship by 22 points.

But if anyone other than Fabio Quartararo is riding it, it is not quite so good. The best result by the trio of Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, and Darryn Binder is a seventh place, by Morbidelli at Mandalika. That seventh place is one of only two top tens for the other Yamahas, Darryn Binder being the other at the same race.

Together, Morbidelli, Dovizioso, and Binder have scored a grand total of 40 points. Fabio Quartararo has 147, over three times as many. And he has never finished behind any of the other Yamahas throughout the season. In fact, the closest any other Yamaha rider has gotten to Quartararo is Franco Morbidelli's eleventh place, two places behind his teammate, at the season opener at Qatar. Since then, Quartararo and the other Yamaha riders have been operating on different planets.

Facing the future

Can this be fixed? And what is Yamaha doing to address this? On the Monday after Barcelona, Yamaha had just a few parts for the riders to test. There was a new swingarm, which offered only marginal benefits, there was another chance to try the new low-downforce aero package used by Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo at Mugello, which Quartararo subsequently dropped. And there was a chance to try new engine maps in pursuit of more horsepower, though that was limited.

On the face of it, the test was of limited use in finding the power Fabio Quartararo says he needs if he is to successfully defend his 2021 MotoGP crown. But with engine development frozen for 2022, any major advances will only come in 2023, and the first hint of that bike won't appear until the Misano test in September.

More horsepower will come, however. That is the guarantee Yamaha gave to Fabio Quartararo to convince him to sign a new contract for the next two seasons. They are backing this up by bringing in new engineers, some from Formula 1, to help find extra horses from the Yamaha M1.

"For me I always push, and more now, we needed to push to have more power," Quartararo told us after the test. "I'm sure they are working super hard to bring us a new engine for 2023 and have much more power because I always say the same, but because it’s true that if you make everything perfect, you can win. It's not a problem of power or whatever."

"But when you are in a tough situation, power is something that changes your race," Quartararo pointed out. There had been times where he had been stuck behind bikes that were faster on the straight, despite being capable of faster lap times, and that had been frustrating. "I was sixth or seventh and I could not overtake and I was faster. I could fight with Pecco for the win but. But we are behind, so this is why I think it's the most important to have the power and not really think about other things."

All this focus on horsepower comes at the expense of areas which could help the other Yamaha riders. While horsepower is always a good thing, they need help with the rear tire spinning up while the bike is at full lean angle and chewing through the rear quickly. They need help with turning and more feedback. They need help with braking, to carry more speed into the corner.

Should Yamaha be doing more to address the concerns of Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, Darryn Binder, and focus less on what Quartararo wants? "Yamaha is involved to improve what Fabio requests, and this is normal and this is the right thing to do, because he’s leading the championship, they won last year," Andrea Dovizioso replied when asked. "That is the priority and this is normal."

That creates problems, of course. "What he requests is different than most of the riders, because he is able to use the potential of the bike where it’s good, but the others can't," Dovizioso explained. "So we are requesting different things. But what we are requesting is something very difficult to create. It is very difficult to know what you have to change. It takes time, takes money and if I put myself in Yamaha’s place, maybe I make the same decision."

There is perhaps a fear of change as well, Dovizioso acknowledged, when the comparison with Casey Stoner at Ducati and Marc Marquez at Honda was made. Perhaps Yamaha are afraid of killing the goose which is laying them golden eggs if they change the bike to suit the other riders.

"I think one of the reasons they are not investing a lot of attention or money on that is for that they are scared about that," Dovizioso told us. "And I can understand because when you change something, nobody knows the right things to do. You have to try lots of things, so that is dangerous in their situation. So it’s difficult."

The consolation is that Yamaha have a proven path to winning races, which runs via Fabio Quartararo. "It's positive because they have something, it's working, but it’s difficult for sure," Dovizioso said.

Was throwing money at Fabio Quartararo was a simpler and faster route to success?"Ha! That’s for sure," Dovizioso laughed. "But you know you have to choose a strategy, so if this is your target, it's good to do that." In the long term, building a better bike was a more sustainable proposition. "It's always better to have a bike work for more riders because you can play as a manufacturer," Dovizioso explained." But it's not easy to create that situation and is not the situation they are in now."

And so Yamaha find themselves in a quandary. They have a rider who is winning and leading the championship, and understands the bike exactly and precisely, knowing how to extract every drop of performance out of the M1. And they have a bike which, for riders who can't ride the way Fabio Quartararo does, making up time on the brakes and managing acceleration with subtle throttle control, leaves them unable to compete.

If they change the M1 to make it more competitive for Morbidelli, Dovizioso, Binder, they risk defanging the bike for Quartararo, taking away the strengths he is using to be successful. But if they leave the bike as it is, and only listen to Quartararo, they risk being left with a bike that isn't competitive if, for some reason, the Frenchman leaves Yamaha or is unable to race.

In the short term, Yamaha are better off putting all their eggs in one basket, the one marked Fabio Quartararo. After all, Honda did that for Marc Marquez and ended up with six MotoGP titles. Whether it is successful in the long term, only history will reveal. But racing is a very short-term business, so that is a bridge they will cross when they have no other choice.


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Comments

You don't win by having the "best bike on the grid" you win by having a Stoner or a Marquez on a machine they can deliver the goods on. You need to play the game with key-man risk on full blast. 

cant agree more Mate!..The Dukes with the most powerful bikes and the "BEST BIKE" tag hasnt won a title in 15 years. So Top speed isnt everything and the slowest bike has atleast won 8 Motogp Titles.

 

Although, putting all eggs in one basket is the worst policy. Look at Honda and Márquez. As for Ducati, they just have bad management, they could haver had at least one more title but... the top brass knows better :)

Honda 2013 to 2021 got 2 out of every three championships. Fairly obvious Honda is not going to get it in 2022 so lets say 3 of every 5. A pretty good strike rate.

Next season Yamaha will only have two bikes on the grid to take care of so why not throw everything at the rider who can win for them and perhaps find a rider who can try and emulate Fabio's style rather than try and have two very different bikes?

I think the problem for Yamaha will be finding a great rider to sign who will go to a team knowing he will be second fiddle.

I'm not sure there is an example in modern MotoGP history of an exemplary rider not being catered to, yet still winning multiple races and championships.

I think it's reasonable to consider that (perhaps especially now with the slim margins between the manufacturers' overall performance) you don't win by aiming for averages.  You must capitalize on every possible advantage.

Quartararo is Yamaha's advantage.  It is in no one's best interest NOT to cater to his specific needs.

Honda received a bunch of flack for putting all their eggs in the Marquez basket.  Yet, 2019 was quintessential 'Marc Marquez on a Honda', finishing only 1st or 2nd and having a nearly perfect race completion record.  And this was at the end of a string of 7 nearly perfect years with him at the helm.  If Honda aimed for averages, who knows what Marc would have been able to wrestle out of the package over that timespan.  Maybe it wouldn't have been 6 world titles. Then what?  Does Honda get a pat on the back because at least their other riders are marginally more pleased with what they have underneath them?  Brownie points?  Cool ...cool...

How much flexibility does Yamaha really have under the rules to pursue multiple development directions at the same time? Seems like everything is homologated now, and the number of Michelin tire options can't really be described as "robust". 

I'm not sure a manufacturer can abandon their place at the front to develop chassis feedback for a half dozen riders. It's better to choose a number 1 rider, and place your bets on him. If you happen upon a development design with widespread appeal, use it to recruit riders away from the competition. Who cares if they win for you, as long as they don't win for the competition. If this is Ducati's strategy, Quartararo is the roadrunner to Ducati's Wile E Coyote.  

They can run whatever bike they homologate and have versions of that with different engine, chassis, fork aero etc - look at Ducati with their 21, 21.5 and 22 spec bikes. I don't know whether they can homologation 2 new bikes in one year.

The risk when you only have 2 bikes is that your Golden Goose has no one to test stuff on their behalf. The strategy would seem counterintuitive to supporting the Golden Goose to keep laying World Championship eggs.

Pirro, Bradl and Savadori seem to have their hands full doing testing while once again Yamaha sits in their hands? Where is Crutchlow? This seems to be a repeated tactic to hire test riders and then have them sit on the couch all year.

Thoughts keep returning to Yamaha and losing their 2nd Team here. The ONLY rider getting the bike to do anything is Fab Q. The recent years are weird, and one reason is the shapeshifter gizmos and aero. More power is getting to the ground. This Michelin rear facilitates that. Power is king. 

How Fabio is managing to put this bike up there is astounding. Alien. It doesn't look as ragged as when done on, say, a Honda. But he IS over the limit regularly. Are Morbidelli and Dovi surprisingly underperforming? Yes. It is a bit extreme and odd. Quarty is way overperforming too - it is remarkable. 

A good thing about this bike of course is rideability. It allows this much more safely than Marc's nasty bronco. 

Yamaha HAD to sign Quarty. Mandatory. I did not see that happening! Fabio's countenance early in the season was so very closed off and dour in the garage. Statements consistently short and critical of the bike. It was Honda or Ducati. But Duc has a full stable, and Honda has a bike sorting snag as well as difficult culture for riders. Time dragged on, no news. Blue convinced Quarty that a better bike was coming. Wheel spin in lower traction would resolve, and pace would improve. I don't gather btw that they promised a big step in motor like he demanded! Suzuki did it. Blue could? But they convinced him. 

Got it. Ok. So, another thing - the landscape got weird recently. Suzuki up and quit, and Dorna can do nothing about it. Two less bikes on the grid. Riders' salaries just tumbled in a manner we haven't seen in a LONG time for next contract. It is safer to stay put in such conditions. The all new Honda careened into uncertain difficulty after a gorgeous preseason. At Ducati their rider line up began to alternate inconsistent results. The 2022 evolution seems to have taken a slightly wayward step. Pecco very last moment ditched the new engine, they have three or even four specs of bike out there. 

Just to fook with everyone's sense of reality Aprilia has arrived near the front with Asparagus of all people. The big time Drive To Polularize show hit a rocky reveal and was CANNED. So very much has been...odd. Security and confidence is down. 

Surely nothing else odd will happen, eh? Nope. Moto3 style tow trollers sit nearly stopped off line. Track conditions move outside of ok parameters at some tracks. Weather is still very inconsistent. Bagnaia loses his way when he was bookies' favorite. Aero brings turbulence tossing a few riders. Front tires are an issue in a group! Then, they just aren't. 

All this to get to the big deal thing that pops my circuit: Yamaha's 2nd Team cuts ties and goes with Aprilia. The lead up to this, well captured in 2021's TV show, is strange. The decision, is it strange? And what are the ramifications? I am blinking and a bit lost. Without Petronas money, the Malaysian Team isn't one of irreplaceable merit. But it is a solid team, and they ditched Yamaha.

The reasons? Many, evident, and bitter. But now I am just sitting with the reality that this happened. Yamaha has been left in favor of Aprilia. 

How much time and breath have we spent on "Suzuki, it MUST be doing a 2nd Team!" Doesn't that all apply here for Yamaha equally? How could they lose it? It is quite a slap to the face. 

The only good things I see are 1) they just seemed to solve the wheelspin in low grip issue. And 2) they managed to re-sign Quarty. Ok, 3) rumor has it a Euro Test Team including workhorse Crutchlow exists. 

Aprilia, WOW! And Yamaha, uh...damn. Ouch. There isn't any other option besides make a bike tailored to Quarty for 2023-2024 and hope Morbidelli wakes back up. There is nothing else even possible. 

My brain is a scrambled egg. No baskets in sight. 

team so losing the Petronas team means nothing other than losing some income as they have won plenty titles over the last couple of decades. the interesting thing will be to see if when there will 4 yam on the grid again (VR46 team?) if the extra 2 will be satellite ones, like everyone else, or client bikes

 

I think he is done with Yamaha, too,  his own brand is worth as much as Yamaha to a sponsor, and I  think he never expected to end up at SRT, and his relationship with Razali was not great. However, it kept the cash for them. Ducati give him the same bikes as the factory, he would never get that from Yamaha. He is in it to win it, so a satellite Yam doesnt cut it for him. I think Razalis opinion of Yamaha and himself was a real eye opener for him. Must have been a rude awakening.

For a new team it is hard to fault their choice of Ducati. Mugello was a beautiful picture for a while. However, things do change, rules change and Yamaha will produce bikes which win. If there is anyone who could leverage two factory bikes from Yamaha with support, it would be Rossi. Right now, not a good choice to make.

Did I read that right, that the soap has been binned? I only (half) watched the first episode, wasn’t my thing, though might have gone back to it in the off-season once I’ve watched all my backlog of wsbk support races.

LilyV! Correct, show binned early this season. 

I just bumped into something interesting re KTM and Oliveira. As per Pit Beirer just now Orange had an option until end of May to exercise extending his contract, in which they could put him on Tech3 if they wished. Out of respect for Oliveira they let that expire, then offered him MORE money to go to Tech3 if he so wished. He looks to be declining but yet to ink/announce. 

That is class. And, wise re the "you can't MAKE someone ride your bike and have it go well."

Pretty damn sure Fernandez isn't getting much of an Orange carpet rolled out for him. It may well be that Gardner too is looking at getting tossed back in the pond. I don't know what is going on, please chime in if you do. We know Miller to Factory Orange, bread crumbs Mir to Repsol, a few crumbs Oliveira to Gresini, same for Rins to Aquaprilia. And thassit. Right?

We are about to see a few announcements. Hard to be patient.

-- In a different interview, Beirer just said...

"Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner don’t seem to be heading in the right direction. Both gave up. We talked a lot with them and in Barcelona there was an 11th and a 15th place. They had too high expectations and may have overestimated the Moto2 category. They thought that in MotoGP they needed a bike on which everything happens for itself. Look where Quartararo and the other three Yamaha riders are. It is the rider who makes the difference. We told them for 14 days that they have to fight. As rookies, they have to fight for a championship point. And if you get a point, two points must be the next objective. Now Gardner understands this." 

Wow, pretty harsh direct talk. So, goodbye Raul and maybe if you get some points to Remy breadcrumbs?

Assuming that Beirer quote is accurate it's a bit breathtaking. The KTM has been an absolute pig for the whole year. No one not actually riding that thing has the right to claim anyone actually dealing with that KTM clusterf--- is 'giving up'. The rider makes a difference when the ride isn't actually working against them. And if you really disagree with that sentiment Pit just maybe you could produce a ride that is generally competitive and then even KTM and even you might be able to attract a truly transcendent alien to the stable. Seriously. I mean every time I go to buy a new bike I run into the sentiment on KTM reliability online and even me, one of the slower dudes on earth, think, NAH... . Have KTM given up is more the question? As soon as the management blame the workers the end is nigh.

The article spins the interview a fair bit to get a sensational headline. I’d summarise as something like this;

We (KTM) thought it would be good to have two young, hot rookies. Turns out that wasn’t such a bright idea, we’ve realised there’s value in old war horses. Raul never wanted to be here but we wrongly thought we owned him and made him stay. Bad move. He’s off to greener pastures. Remy became downhearted by, in his perception, a crap bike. We’re working on persuading him that he has the ability to ride it better and the results will slowly come.

Bottom line, they know Raul is a lost cause but hope to hang on to Remy. Which is exactly what I’d want in their shoes.

I guess it depends how good your basket is? And that basket is a cash filled contract. Quatararo's contract negotiations must've been easy and I imagine it is quite a nice position for a rider to be in.
I can't see Morbidelli having the same luxury. He must be feeling the pressure and Yamaha must be thinking of alternatives.
With only 2 bikes on the grid it makes achieving more than the rider's World Championship harder. Yamaha want the constructors WC too. To do that they will need a 2nd rider that can place regularly in the top 5. When Honda achieved their 7 constructors WCs in the last 10 years they had 4 bikes on the grid and support from Pedrosa and Crutchlow etc who could podium and top 5 regularly and even win on occasion.

The counterpoint to "Don't put all your eggs in one basket" is "Put all your eggs in one basket then WATCH THAT BASKET".

Worked for Honda and MM for years and there are plenty of other examples.

Or, you can average out the bike for average riders and get average results.

 

Let's see, the choice is between having a rider win the WC or taking time from that rider to help others who aren't as fast. It would take me 0.00001 seconds to decide to go with the fast rider. Look at Honda - they took a half second from MM and gave it to the other 3 and where has it gotten them? Bumbling around with Ready-to-Race-at-the-Back as the worst bikes on the grid. Make the bike as fast as possible for the fastest guy and let the rest keep up or fade away.

The better approach might be to study why one rider is so much more effective than others in the same circumstances and then develop others and the bike accordingly. That seems to me the approach Ducati are employing. Yamaha, on the other hand, may appear to have no choice but to focus on Fabio. But hang on, is it any wonder the other riders are struggling, wasting their time with the least competent team on the grid at RNF. Especially, Franco, last year, he’s not superman, nor is the bike so special that he can jump across from the sleepy hollow of RNF and immediately transform himself this year into Fabio II. It’s not his injury that’s holding him back or even the bike, it’s lack of preparation and personal development, of an experienced team that he has grown up with, of time on the bike with the right people around him. In my view Yamaha have to make it work with Franco, they can’t put everything on Fabio, he’s a genius but he’s human and without a wing man he’s vulnerable. Speaking of the right people, in concluding a contract with Fabio (which, if you’ll permit, I suggested would be the case and the terms, in the face of strong opposing views), I trust Yamaha also signed strong deals with his long standing crew chief, Diego Gubellini, and the rest of his crew. They play a key part in Fabio’s success. The frustration he has been expressing has been with Yamaha, he’s never lost faith in his team nor they in him. 

There is a genius to riding a motorcycle that cannot be taught nor designed around nor wished for upon a star. You either have it and they make bikes for you or you don't and you move along. Barry, Kenny, Freddie, Eddie, Randy, Wayne, Kevin, Mick, Vale, Dani, Casey, Jorge, Marc, and now Fabio. That's it from the past 40 years, imo, who have that super genius. I say design for them and leave the merely genius-level riders to ride what they are given.

Franco was doing great with Ramon Forcada at Aqua then they gave him a new crew chief when he went factory. I've wondered why they tampered with a good team and it sure doesn't seem to have worked out. Frankie is one of my favorites and I'm hoping he can flick the switch soon. Or maybe Fabio is just that special and no matter what the bike no one would keep up with him. That's why they line up on Sundays, I guess.

 

That is the reason. And why we can’t stay away. Props for list of super genius riders over the past 40 years. And the terminology - alien never did it for me. Glad you started with Barry.