Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo was confident of his Sunday afternoon victory from morning warm-up at the Portuguese GP.
The Monster Energy rider put in a commanding performance to dominant the race by almost six seconds in the closing stages. Due to two days of rain across the Algarve weekend, however, the premier class were left with just 20 minutes of warm-up to prepare for battle, in which the 23-year-old showcased his potential from the start.
“This morning I felt great,” Quartararo confirmed after the podium celebrations. “I felt like we had the possibility to fight for the win but I knew if I didn’t make a great start and a great first lap, the victory was gone.
“We achieved a great start and as soon as I was second on the third corner, I knew I was going to win because I felt our pace was really great.
“I know in this track I can make really great pace but I was surprised to run in ‘39 almost all the race because we had no [dry] time on track,” he continued. “When I saw 39.4 I was really surprised but let’s say is a great moment.”
Quartararo began the 25-lap race behind Suzuki’s Joan Mir, before dispatching the 2020 champion on lap four.
“I was quite calm, he was strong in a few areas where I was really surprised but was also some area where I struggled a lot last year. Turn five was something that I’m missing this year to be honest, turn five is a corner where I’m struggling so much, and he was much faster than me but was great to make some laps behind him. Then I felt like I was faster so I overtook him as soon as possible and then tried to pull away.”
The first victory of 2022 puts the defending champion firmly in contention at the top of the standings, albeit level on points with Alex Rins and with Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro hot on their wheels, just three point back. An impressive feat for a bike that has been visibly down on power compared to its rivals.
“Yes, it’s always on the cards!” Quartararo said confidently on his championship chances. “I will never give up, whatever we feel, we know our weak point to be honest and I think everyone knows that the top speed is really low but in this track. I was managing really well with the hill, the wheelie. Last corner I was exiting well and I was surprised to overtake the Suzuki on the straight. To be honest, it feels amazing to overtake someone in the straight and on the braking. I feel so happy.
“To be honest, the first races I’ve been doing my maximum and I’ve been riding exactly same as today,” he continued, reflecting on his performance so far this season. ”Just one area, is that big straights, and in tough parts for the Yamaha we are struggling much more.
“But today, I always say this track is 50/50 for us. If we are in front we can make a massive race but if we’re behind someone and couldn’t overtake, we can make like last year, crash when we were fifth or sixth.
“I’m super happy, because I managed to get that first victory of the season. It’s the most important thing for me to never give up, and it turns out that really was the most important.”