After finding his feet during the opening flyaways, MotoGP rookie Fabio Quartararo has scorched to five front-row starts, two podiums and two fastest laps in just six events.

The stunning run was bookended by non-scores - a technical issue in Jerez and first race mistake at Sachsenring - but the Frenchman has still risen to eighth in the world championship, three points from top satellite rider Jack Miller (Pramac Ducati).

Quartararo has also delivered those giant-killing performances, and bolted to a big lead in the Rookie of the Year standings, despite riding the lowest-spec M1.

While Petronas secured a factory bike to match official riders Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi for team-mate Franco Morbidelli - eleventh in the championship, best finish of fifth - it was felt that a standard package would suffice for Quartararo's 'learning year'.

Initially, the 20-year-old was due to get last season's M1, nicknamed a 'B' spec bike, but this was ultimately upgraded to 'A-' over the winter.

Quartararo has a 2019 engine and chassis. However, to reflect his cheaper bike package, Quartararo is understood to have a lower rev limit (estimates vary from 500-1000rpm), so that he only needs five instead of seven engine changes, plus 'standard' suspension and older aerodynamics.

While team boss Razlan Razali cast doubt on whether Quartararo's package could be upgraded during the current season, and is reluctant to change something that is clearly working so well, he feels the 20-year-old 'deserves' to be on the same factory-spec bike as Morbidelli next year.

"What Fabio has done so far is something beyond everybody’s imagination, especially the team," Razali said.

"I do not want to change what Fabio is enjoying at the moment. One thing I know from Diego [Gubellini], his crew chief, is that Fabio just has to adapt his style to the bike with minimal changes.

"That is also why I question how come the factory riders can't do it? Fabio's bike spec is less than Frankie and the factory [team]…

"I think Fabio deserves to be on a factory bike next year, and I just can’t imagine what he will be like if he’s on a factory bike!"

Running two factory-spec machines would require added budget from Petronas and greater technical resources from Yamaha.

There are reports that Yamaha would prefer to keep the current 'A' and 'A-' bike specs, but it's worth remembering that Sepang originally intended to have two factory Yamahas when in talks to sign Dani Pedrosa alongside Morbidelli, so it should be do-able.

"Initially it was two [factory bikes]. But then [Pedrosa] dropped off," Razali said last year.

"When we ran out of riders for the second bike of the calibre that would deserve a factory ride then we thought, 'let's look at a young rider'. A few names came in and we locked onto Quartararo."

Razali updates the story: "We saw the idea of, okay we have Frankie that should give us that performance, but we want to be a young, new, exciting team. If not, there’s no real story. You bring Bautista in and there’s nothing much to write about. So at least having a rookie - and Fabio surprised everybody."

But signing a rider with only one grand prix victory for such a high-profile MotoGP place meant many were quick to dismiss the decision.

"We were criticized. 'Why do you take Fabio? You should take Bautista or Alex Marquez. You guys made a big mistake'," Razali said.

"Now everybody is claiming [the credit], 'We told you so!' "

Research by the Sepang team into Quartararo's background suggested not only that he was an untapped talent worthy of the MotoGP chance, but that to perform at his maximum requires a pressure-free approach.

"I think [the success] is a combination of Fabio having fun and we always maintain the fact that the target is to be Rookie of the Year. That’s it. Anything more is a bonus. So there’s no added pressure," Razali said.

"I was informed by the team that, every rider is a special rider, but we made an exception with Fabio from his background and history. So we try to protect him as much as possible, together with his manager, Eric [Mahe].

"So we already knew what he’s like, where he could get a bit nervous… But I think he’s coping with all the attention that he’s getting this year very well.

"I think what’s important is so as long as the team doesn’t pressure him too much."

A natural consequence of Quartararo's form is that the Frenchman will become a prime target for factory teams when his Petronas contract expires at the end of next season.

Razali is already preparing a contingency plan by seeking a second entry for the Sepang Moto2 squad, with the purpose of finding "the next rookie MotoGP rider in 2021".

"Already after Mugello a lot of stories were flying around so we must anticipate there will be changes [to the Petronas MotoGP line-up]," Razali said, referring to early season gossip of a Vinales-Quartararo swap.

"We are approaching a number of [Moto2] riders with the commitment, subject to their performance, that they will go to MotoGP on a Yamaha in 2021. That’s attractive. Everybody is excited.

"But at the end of the day we would love our [current MotoGP] riders to stay. And if they both stay, we would just extend the Moto2 rider(s) for one extra year."

Yamaha is not the only manufacturer that could potentially run four full-factory machines next year with Ducati set to hand GP20s to both Pramac riders, Jack Miller and (Quartararo's rookie rival) Francesco Bagnaia.

 

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