Monster Yamaha‘s Fabio Quartararo shone brightly on the second day of MotoGP action in Portugal, with the Frenchman leading all three of Saturday’s sessions.
Claiming pole in a dramatic Q2 - which saw both Pecco Bagnaia and teammate Maverick Viñales denied their P1-worthy efforts due to yellow flags and track limits respectively - Quartararo established himself as the man to beat at Portimao today.
Having already set the fastest times in both FP3 and FP4, he showed he meant business once again in Q2 by posting a 1‘39.028s on his opening lap to sit first as the session fired up.
Running wide and into the gravel in turn eight on his next revolution meant a quick trip to the pits for new tyres but with six minutes remaining, he was back on track to defend his position.
Clocking a 1‘38.862s, a new all-time lap record, on his 16th lap of the afternoon, the Yamaha rider still had time for two more laps of the Algarve layout but failed to better his time.
In the final stages it looked like he would miss out on the celebrations due to a blistering hot lap by Ducati’s rising star, Bagnaia but the Italian had failed to see the yellow flags, out for Miguel Oliveira’s late-session crash at turn nine, and the time was cancelled, putting the Frenchman back in control by 0.089s from Suzuki’s Alex Rins.
“It‘s a pole, but it doesn‘t feel like it usually does” Quartararo explained honestly after the Parc ferme celebrations. “Bagnaia was extremely fast on one lap. I‘m actually happier about being in first place in FP3 and FP4 than I am about this pole position!
“The main goal was to start from the front row” he continued. “That we achieved by our own merit, and then the pole was handed to us afterwards. The feeling is really good. It‘s just a shame that I had a big shake in the last corner of the last lap. I could have improved the lap time more, but I‘m happy. I know the pace that I‘m capable of. This one is for my team.
“The pace from this morning with old tyres, also testing the tyres in the afternoon, the pace was great and with used tyres this morning, I could push a little bit more so I’m so happy about the pace and the job from the team.
Discussing the weekend’s changeable conditions on his tyre choices for Sunday’s race, the 21-year-old commented “From this morning, I felt different in the afternoon but it looks like both tyres are working well. Right now I’m more into the medium. Tomorrow, we will see if we will try the hard in the warm up but I’m feeling confident with both tyres so I feel like if we go with the hard or the medium, both are great options for the race.
“Honestly, in Qatar I was anxious to see the behaviour of the bike here in Portimao, because we know, in Qatar it was working well. As soon as I arrive here I say, ‘Okay, now I’m more close to 2019 than 2020, that is really great news’. It was quite a long time that I didn’t feel that great on the bike. Sometimes you’re pushing on the limit and the lap time is not coming, but today I just had a lot of flow on the bike and this means that you are feeling comfortable. Honestly it was long time that I did not feel that on a bike.
“The bike for me is much more demanding than last year and two years ago but our job, outside of the races, is to get fit and I’m feeling really good but it’s true that is different from 2019. When I came to MotoGP I heard Yamaha is an easy bike, no MotoGP is easy but it’s true that it was quite friendly, but this one you need to push so hard to make the lap time and also to make the pace, so it’s more demanding than 2019 but I’m feeling good on it.
“The big difference being fast, is the behaviour of the bike, last year when we were turning we had no feeling and the bike was just going so wide. This year, when we want to turn, the bike is turning and we have that front feeling, in Qatar I had a lot, to overtake, to feel the limit. With last year’s bike I’d turn but I don’t know if I will crash or not, and was really not easy to understand the bike. Looks like this year is much better and that’s why I’m so happy, more than the front row of today, how I feel about FP3, FP4, I have such great feeling with the bike.”