Monster Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo concluded his first MotoGP test of 2022 happy but wanting more with his YZR-M1.
The reigning champion felt he didn’t make the most of the time attack simulation during his two days at the Sepang International Circuit, despite setting a best lap of 1’58.313, two-tenths faster than his pole time at the Malaysian track in 2019. The fastest Yamaha ended the day seventh in the combined times, with teammate Franky Morbidelli one-second back in 24th and factory test rider Cal Crutchlow 21st.
“Really happy, straight away from the first lap was more natural riding so I was super happy,” Quartararo said as the test concluded on Sunday. “Unfortunately we kept two tyres but we made only one time attack today and we kept the tyres to make two in a row at the end.” His afternoon plans having been disrupted due to tropical rain storms from mid way through the session.
“Coming from a rear tyre that was really old, I didn't make a great time attack. Even if the lap time was pretty good, I could improve much more. Bit sad because I wanted to go under the '58s, with two time attack I think was possible, but happy because even with used tyre I was fast. This morning I make '59.4 with 21 laps on the rear, in the afternoon, '59.7 with a lot of laps so on my natural riding I'm super happy.”
The improvement was clear to hear after the Frenchman admitted struggling on his first day back at work for the new year.
“In general I need to improve my riding because after three months, I was not doing enough corner speed and that is a strong point of our bike. So I need to improve my riding basically for tomorrow,” he said on Saturday. “I was really aggressive on the brakes and not fast enough on the fast corners where I need to make corner speed.”
Having spent the final day working with a new chassis and lower set-up, the Yamaha rider was underwhelmed with the progress made, especially compared to the steps taken by other manufacturers.
“At the moment is nothing really different,” he commented on Yamaha’s winter progression. "Today was not really a big day, to be honest, I expect much more from this test but is like this. Let's see what we can try in Mandalika. We will try more or less the same thing as we have now but just in a different track. So let's see if in there we can see more positives.
“At the end, Ducati they were already super, super fast at the end of the season but the three that impressed me more is Honda, Suzuki and Aprilia,” Quartararo continued, on his rivals’ Sepang showing. “[Aprilia] do '58.1 and '58.3 I think. It's true that they make more days but for sure the bike is working super well. If you check the top speed, is super fast. I was behind Aleix [Espargaro] for half a lap and the turning was a lot. So for sure I'm impressed by them and at the end, for me, yes Honda and Suzuki they made they made a massive step also.
“To be honest I don't think we make a step like that but that doesn't mean that we are not competitive. Just means that the other ones make much bigger step than us and we are struggling in some area. Even new tyre is strange to see that I was struggling more because normally time attack is one of my favourite things. I knew I could improve much more but I don't know, the others make a big step on that area.
“Of course I want more horsepower but at the end, we can't invent, I can't put that in the engine right now but we need to be fast,” he said of his main ask to the Japanese factory. “But I don't think too much about that. If we have it, is better but if we don't have it is not useful to say every time that is missing power. If you have no power you adapt yourself like I did in the past.”
With Quartararo circulating firmly in the top ten and less than two tenths from the record breaking time set by Gresini’s Enea Bastianini, he remains a lonely figure as far as the M1 is concerned. As was the case for much of 2021, the remaining Yamaha’s featured out of the top 20 at the close of play, albeit with Morbidelli still working his way back to full-fitness after his knee surgery and extensive rehabilitation. So how important is it for the world champion to have a fast and competitive teammate alongside?
“Is difficult to say,” he admitted. “You always want someone that push you to the limit and I think is helping, for sure Franco is going to be fast. In the short future for sure in Mandalika he will be much closer and fast. But yeah, I think that the first part of the season, when Maverick was there, I've learned from him. Like the first race in Qatar he give me, not motivation but I saw what he did and I wanted to make, not the same but to apply what I've missed.
“In Assen I think is the first time that we push ourselves both of us to the limits like that, because in Assen was for me the most interesting qualifying. Even if I finish second, I made a mistake but I never pushed myself that much to the limit and I think is helping. I don't need someone really to push me to go fast but if you have someone, is helping in some area to maybe don't think too much and just send it.”