Like other big name development riders at rival manufacturers, the Englishman and his testing crew sit between those that design the M1 and those that will race it, Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli.

It’s not that Quartararo, Morbidelli or any other MotoGP rider lacks the necessary development skills as such, but that the growing racing calendar has been compensated for by a cut in Official testing.

That’s increased the importance of a fast and experienced test rider to evaluate new parts and steer development, with retired MotoGP winners such as Crutchlow and Dani Pedrosa (KTM) among the current breed of factory testers.

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“The testing is working very well,” Crutchlow told “I give them information on what they bring, where I think it’s right or wrong, and on what I think they should bring [in future]. But I'm not an engineer and it's not that easy to just build it!

“But they give me loads of stuff to test. The difference between when I first started testing [at the start of 2021] and now is incredible. They move 27 staff to each test! It's a full effort. Which is great. I enjoy doing it, and the test team is working better every time.”

While technical directors are often at pains to highlight that every area of a MotoGP bike is under constant evolution, in Yamaha’s case there are two main topics on their wish list for 2023.

The first is an increase in top speed, a pledge central to securing 2021 world champion Quartararo’s signature for the next two seasons.

The second (related) quest is to make the M1 more like the user-friendly machine of the past, after the likes of Morbidelli and Andrea Dovizioso struggled to stay within sight of Quartararo.

Fabio ‘needs to be able to fight’

After Yamaha stepped back from a planned engine upgrade for 2022, Quartararo fought a valiant but ultimately doomed battle to retain his title.

While the young Frenchman could compensate for the M1’s lack of top speed by squeezing the maximum from the corners in practice and qualifying, he was often helpless to defend against - let alone attack - his rivals on the straights in a race.

Quartararo still took the title battle against Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia to the final round, by which time he had been impressed by a prototype version of the 2023 engine at the Misano test.

The MotoGP rules forbid engine design changes during the season, but if Quartararo had been able to race the more powerful 2023 powerplant last year, would it have been enough?

“It's hard to say because sure, we have got a lot more top speed [with the 2023 engine], but that comes with new problems,” Crutchlow replied.

The former Tech3 Yamaha, Ducati and LCR Honda rider added: “The bike with more speed at the end of the straight will already be more competitive because Fabio won't be passed as easy and he can maybe pass others.

“He needs something to be able to fight and I believe what we have done for next year will do that. But we need to make the bike calmer.”

‘When I ride, it's realistic’

Crutchlow’s scepticism that top speed alone will solve the M1’s problems is based on his own experience of riding in low-grip conditions, with only a handful of other bikes on track, at private tests.

That contrasts with the high grip of Official MotoGP tests, such as Misano and Valencia, where 20+ riders take to a track already heavily rubbered by a full race weekend of action.

“The problem that I have is when they [Quartararo and Morbidelli] test, it’s on a track with loads of grip,” Crutchlow said. “But the reality is not always like that [at a grand prix]. They've got to get through [low grip in] FP1, FP2 and FP3.

"So when I ride, it's realistic with that.”

The 2023 Yamaha engine programme - aided by former F1 designer Luca Marmorini - hit an unexpected glitch when the prototype given to Quartararo and Morbidelli at November’s Valencia test strangely failed to deliver the speed increase of previous outings, including with Crutchlow just a week earlier at Jerez.

But while the Englishman has no doubts about the reality of the top speed gains, the experience of racing in the final six rounds as a replacement for Dovizioso also underlined the ‘aggressive’ nature of the current engine.

“I believe I know the direction we need to go, and I've explained that to them,” Crutchlow said.

“One thing is that the engine we've got [in 2022], I believe is very aggressive. And that's why we struggle. We create a lot of tyre spin and we don't accelerate from the corner. So we have to improve that as well.

“Riding with the other bikes in the last races, you understand more the problem because you can see exactly where they're stronger and then give that information back.”

But there are other areas where being more ‘aggressive’ is positive.

Suzuki’s exit means Honda and Yamaha are now the only Japanese manufacturers left in MotoGP.

Crutchlow, who has raced for both of them, said: “The philosophy of the two manufacturers are so different you cannot imagine.

“But Yamaha are becoming more… aggressive with their approach, which is what we need. Lin [Jarvis] and Miao [Meregalli] are very much in control of the situation moving forward, and this is good.”

Meanwhile, havng lost its satellite team for 2023, Yamaha has confirmed they will be relying on Crutchlow more than ever in 2023 when wild-card outings also remain a possibility.

Speaking during last season, the 37-year-old joked that being a rider coach is unlikely to become one of his new duties.

“What am I going to tell Fabio? ‘Go as slow as I am!’” Crutchlow laughed.

But how about for Morbidelli, just 19th in last year’s world championship:

“You’re better off letting him do his own thing and trying to help from behind the scenes. But I fully expect Frankie to be up there next year, we saw in Malaysia, he had a very good pace all weekend. So it’s still there, let’s say.

"Maybe he just needs some time away during the winter. He nearly won the championship two years ago. We need two strong riders in the factory team and I’ll believe we’ll have that next season.”

Crutchlow’s best result during his stand-in appearances was twelfth place at Sepang, directly behind Morbidelli (who served a double long-lap penalty).

The #35 also set a pace close to Ducati race winner Jack Miller in the middle stages at Motegi and topped the timesheets for the home RNF team in a damp FP2 in Malaysia.