Fabio Quartararo missed out on the 2022 MotoGP title by a handful of points. The advantage Pecco Bagnaia had going into the final round was too great to overcome at Valencia. Given the lack of horsepower the 2022 Yamaha M1 had, it was impressive that Quartararo took the championship down to the final race.
Quartararo's feat was down in no small part to his crew chief, Diego Gubellini. The Italian, who was paired with the Frenchman in what was then the Petronas Yamaha satellite squad and moved up to the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team with him, helped Quartararo extract every ounce of performance from the M1.
I spoke to Gubellini on the Thursday before the final race, looking back at the 2022 season and how he and Quartararo worked to get the best out of the Yamaha M1. He talked about his role as crew chief, maximizing the speed of the Yamaha, and his role in the development of the 2023 machine.
But first, I started off asking about the 2022 championship, and the fact that Fabio Quartararo still have a very small chance to retain his MotoGP crown.
Diego Gubellini: Yes, it's very small. It's not only related to our result, it basically depends a lot on what Bagnaia wants to do in the race. It's clear that if he races just to bring a few points home and be sure, then there is not much to do than just try to win the race. But we will see. We have a chance, so we will play for it.
Q: If you have one chance, you don't have very many decisions to make, all you have to do is try to win?
DG: Actually, we are here to try to do the best race we can. This is always the target. And every race you try to do your best, this is always the target we have, and sometimes you can win, sometimes not. Of course, this race, trying to get the small chance we have, you have to win. But on the other hand, many times this year we have not had the tools in hand to beat our competitors. So in this case we have to just try to bring home the best result possible.
Q: It feels like you have been fighting with one hand tied behind your back all season, you didn't have the engine to take on the Ducatis. As a crew chief, how do you approach that?
DG: It's difficult to say, because the basic strategy doesn't change so much, because anyway, in the race weekend, you have to prepare the bike and the rider as best you can to be as fast as possible. But then every race it changes, because there are some tracks where for example you cannot push full gas because of the tires, or because of the power. So then you have to change the strategy a little bit. But my job, the work I do during the weekend doesn't change so much, with this situation with a lot of bikes faster than our bike. So maybe it changes the final results a lot, but it doesn't change the approach.
Q: Quartararo said he had to be on the front row to be able to compete, did that mean you had to change your plan to focus more on qualifying?