Fabio Quartararo: ‘I’m not the title favourite, by far’

MotoGP world championship leader Fabio Quartararo sends another warning to Yamaha after a frustrating home race at Le Mans.
Fabio Quartararo, French MotoGP, 15 May
Fabio Quartararo, French MotoGP, 15 May

France’s 68-year wait for a home victory in the premier-class, last achieved by Pierre Monneret in Reims 1954, continued despite reigning champion and 2022 title leader Quartararo lining up on Sunday’s grid as pre-race favourite.

Although fourth in qualifying, Quartararo looked to have the best race pace going into the 27-lap race.

Despite being unable to attempt a pass on Francesco Bagnaia at the previous Jerez race, due to rising front tyre pressure whenever he got too close, Quartararo was confident the front would not be so critical this time around.

That proved to be the case, but the M1’s lack of straight-line performance meant the outcome was the same and Quartararo’s victory chances were ‘finished’ when he dropped to eighth on the opening lap.

Aleix Espargaro, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Aleix Espargaro, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Quartararo: ‘We cannot overtake’

“I don't feel happy about my race at all. I had three crashes in front of me, so my real position is not 4th, it’s much further back,” said Quartararo, who followed the Aprilia of Aleix Espargaro from lap 3 until the chequered flag.

“And not for our pace, because if you check every practice we had the best pace. But then in a race, as soon as you are in a position that you are not able to overtake or to have a clean track. It’s finished.

“And this is why I was not even angry because, you know, I get a little bit used to this already.

“What is true is I give always 100%. I gave everything today. In one moment, I lost the front and Aleix took a half a second gap, but in five corners I was already back behind him again.

“So in term of speed we were super fast, but we know that it is not possible to overtake.”

“All race we are not able to make one overtake,” Quartararo continued. “All the passes I make are because some riders made mistakes. Three crashes in front of me, Marc went a little bit wide, but I made no overtakes during the race.

“The front tyre pressure went up a little bit, but it was not the main [issue] and we went with the medium [rather than soft front tyre]. So if I couldn't overtake it was not for the front pressure.

“Here the overtaking points are turn 3, turn 9. But on the straight I lose too much. So I cannot prepare to pass in turn 3. In turn 9 it’s the same.

“In front of me I had guys that have podiums and fight for victories in MotoGP. If you lose 5-6-7-8 metres to them on the straight, I cannot then go 10k faster than them in turn 1 to try and overtake in turn 3.

“So as soon as you make a mistake on the start, your race is finished.”

While the stop-and-go nature of Le Mans may have amplified Yamaha’s issues - the next best M1 of Franco Morbidelli was back in 15th place, 25s behind Quartararo - the Frenchman warned the chronic overtaking problem has been present since the start of the season.

“The only real overtake I’ve made was in Portimao on Joan [Mir], because the last corner down the hill I was much faster, but I didn’t make any good overtake this year,” he said.

Fabio Quartararo, French MotoGP race, 15 May
Fabio Quartararo, French MotoGP race, 15 May

Quartararo: ‘Enea’s the man… I'm not the favourite, by far’

Despite the exasperating race, Quartararo retained the world championship lead, by a reduced four points over Espargaro, with race winner Enea Bastianini (Gresini Ducati) now just 8 points from the top.

“Enea is the only guy to have won more than one race this year and he’s won three,” Quartararo said. “So he's the man right now.”

And despite his position at the head of the standings after 7 of 21 rounds, Portimao winner Quartararo warned he’s having to ride too much on the limit to be considered the title favourite.

“No, I'm not the favourite, by far,” Quartararo said. “The only thing I can do is make no mistakes.

“If I make no mistakes I can be there because looking at our pace at Jerez, with Pecco we were the fastest. Here, for me I was the fastest, but as soon as you make a small mistake, you are gone.”

Adding to Quartararo’s frustration was that he ultimately missed out on standing on the podium, in front of a massive 110,000 home fans, by just 0.106s to Espargaro.

“I don't know what I can do, to be honest, because I'm pushing myself to the limit. I'm on the limit everywhere. But I cannot make - I cannot even try [to overtake],” he said.

“This is the most frustrating thing. That you are on the last lap and give your 100%. But even if you are one centimetre back in the corner, they accelerate and pull away one tenth… this is why I don't feel the favourite this year.”

Team principal Massimo Meregalli conceded: “In order to fight for the win, we have to prepare for the race in a perfect way: do a perfect qualifying and also have a perfect start.

“When you can‘t get a perfect start, like Fabio today, it gets difficult, even while Fabio‘s speed would have allowed him to achieve a different position. To overtake on tracks like this, with this circuit layout, is very complicated for us. We have to manage this situation race by race.”

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