Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo kept hopes of retaining his MotoGP title alive, just, with a fightback from 12th to the Malaysian GP podium.
A crash in Saturday’s FP3 left the current champion on the deck and in need of medical intervention after breaking a finger on his left hand. The Frenchman later struggling in qualifying as he prepared to line the Monster Energy M1 up in 12th on Sunday’s grid.
“Not a big crash but a stupid crash,” Quartararo admitted. “I mean, normal crash but just break my finger and of course was really painful. Adrenaline is a great painkiller and also fighting for that kind of position. I think my finger was something else but as soon as it stopped, right now I feel the hurt in the finger! Doesn't matter because we give everything and that's what we wanted today.”
A storming start left Quartararo fifth by the close of lap one with Marc Marquez blocking his path until the Spaniard was dispatched four laps later. While the 23-year-old was unable to hook into the battling duo of eventual winner Pecco Bagnaia and Enea Bastianini, he had his own Ducati issues for the tail end of the action. Marco Bezzecchi keeping the number 20 honest from the halfway stage before fading slightly as the race wound down with third position the reward.
“I hoped not for the victory of Pecco of course but at least we give our maximum today,” Quartararo explained on Sunday afternoon. “The start was the key point, the first lap. We changed a little bit the strategy compared to Australia, that wanted to keep the tyre fresh for the end but today I just push myself quite hard in the beginning because our bike is not super good in saving the tyre. I had to push three/four laps till I was in front of Marc so was pretty good and I'm happy to make that result today.
“I saw Pecco was really good in the first braking,” he continued. “So I say 'I have to make something because if not my title chance will fly away' and I've made a great first lap. Even if now we are super far away, I'm not giving up and I want to finish in a good way in Valencia.
“At the end, he was one second and a half then he come back to three or two tenths from me, but I push like hell,” Quartararo said of his battles with Bezzecchi. “First of all, I knew that if he overtook me and Pecco won, he [Bagnaia] would have been world champion, but especially I wanted the podium.
“I knew if he overtook me I could not overtake him back. I'm pretty happy to at least bring the mystery until Valencia.”
While the title fight is mathematically possible, Quartararo’s chances are slight. With 23 points between himself and Bagnaia it would take nothing less than a win from the Yamaha and a non-score from the Ducati but he’s ruling nothing out.
“I will prepare myself like a crazy man because I know the only solution for me to fight there will be to win,” he confirmed. “So doesn't matter but I want to enjoy Valencia race because I know is the last one of the season. Then we see how we do it but I'm feeling like we have to enjoy the Valencia race.”