Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo completed a commanding race victory at Barcelona with a six-second lead in the CatalanGP.
In a weekend which saw the Frenchman secure his future with Yamaha for a further two seasons and title sponsor Monster Energy do likewise in a multi-year deal, Quartararo led from the outset to dominate at the flag after an initially difficult Friday.
“I felt good from the beginning,” Quartararo said from Parc Fermé of his Sunday in Spain. “I knew I wanted to be first in the first corner and finally I managed to get something crazy.
“I'm so happy, amazing race. I felt great. I was not controlling all the race but pushing from the beginning and then see how was my rear tyre going, was really good. I had some margin and always increasing my lead so so happy. Mugello and here was meant to be difficult, but two, one is a really great result.
“I was not expecting to be that consistent on the race and that fast,” he continued, on his potential heading into the 24-lap race. “I mean, the pace was good, but was not extremely fast.
“Of course the start was something super important. My strategy was to at least doing five laps, not pushing to the limit but pushing hard. I take a risk because I wanted to pull away but I knew that if I could not, my goal was five laps pushing hard, but I knew if these five laps was not great, I used a big performance of my rear tyre. But fortunately it worked.
“Turn three and four we know that is two corners that, basically I will not say 50 per cent of the tyre consumption is there but I was taking care of a lot. Was something super important to be consistent and yeah, when I saw the lead after a few laps it was amazing.
“When you are leading like that, the race is super long and you are thinking about things that you should not think on the bike and it's really stupid things! I was expecting to have a little bit more fight but I was good. When I saw half second lead in the first lap or second lap, I was great. I knew I was not going to be overtaken in the straight. Super happy and for the championship is something really good.”
With the championship in mind, being consistent and taking the advantages available, even at the tracks he expects to struggle at, is key to his title defence.
“I think is the way,” he admitted. “Of course to make first, second, first, second is not gonna be easy because I have tough, tough opponents but Mugello I couldn't win. I feel a little bit faster but on acceleration and top speed we lost a lot.
“Arriving here, Mugello and here was two tracks where it was difficult - mainly for the straight - but I know that if we make a good pace, during the corners we can be super fast. Of course some races will depend a lot on our first lap but to be first in the first corner was a real advantage for us.
“Here I expect the top speed to be much worse but with the downhill I feel that the bike was not bad. In Mugello, the bike when we do the uphill was really getting low on RPM and here with the downhill was much better. I think the best way is try to be more consistent.
“Of course I'm struggling because I feel on the limit all the time but I feel super good on the bike. Is a really similar situation as last year, that I'm riding like my best but I feel much more confident than last year. So I think every time I'm on the bike, I make step forwards.”
With the Yamaha usually making its time on the brakes, due to the lack of comparable top speed, but requiring grip to do that, Barcelona’s low grip surface is a tricky circuit for the M1. However, with two wins and a second place now under his belt for the Frenchman’s four appearances in the premier class with the Japanese marque, where is he finding the speed?
“On the brakes!” Quartararo stated. “Still on the brakes because I had really, really good, when we have the SC2 compounds, I feel super strong. Here we had that and basically when we make a lot of time is when it's also trail braking and use the rear grip but here is a lot of straight braking, so you're using a lot the front tyre. Turn one you are breaking so long in the straight and is about power and feeling on the front tyre and I had it well. So I felt still I was making time on the brakes and turn 1,4,5 ten, I was feeling super strong and the last two corners with new tyre I was not super fast, but with old tyre I was really consistent.”
One of the major talking points of the day was the first corner incident which took out Pecco Bagnaia and Alex Rins after Takaaki Nakagami shot through the pack in the opening seconds. The Suzuki sent skywards with the Japanese riders head clipping the rear wheel of the Ducati in the aftermath and skittling out the title rival. While the FIM Stewards declared it a racing incident with no further action required, the Frenchman firmly disagreed.
“Was not a racing incident!” Quartararo confirmed. “Because you don't attack that much. I mean, I don't know how it's possible, Pecco was second and Nakagami was far away. How he can arrive to touch his head on the wheel of Pecco? It's not a race incident.
“I think in the first laps, we all need to be conscious that we are racing big bikes, that the weight is minimum 160 kilos and if you get hit by a bike like this, you can pass away. This where is the most dangerous places for us, in the start, then when everything is getting after the first lap is less risk.”
With the Le Mans podium proving too demanding a prospect, Barcelona, closer geographically to his Nice home, brought out a raft of support as Quartararo once again celebrated alongside Pramac’s Johann Zarco.
“In Le Mans I had not the possibility to be on the podium, but it felt like French friends here so it was great to be there with Johann, two Frenchies on the podium,” he enthused. “Was great to hear the French anthem Le Marseilles, so really good. I think all the fans were pretty happy. All of us we felt good so I think the fans are bringing home some great souvenirs.”