Is Quartararo on the backfoot despite finishing top of the title contenders?

Fabio Quartararo might have secured a top five finish on the opening day of the Australian MotoGP, however, top speed was again an issue for the series leader.
Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha MotoGP Phillip Island
Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha MotoGP Phillip Island

The current MotoGP champion finished less than two tenths off Johann Zarco in FP2, but top speed was once again an issue as the Yamaha rider was losing around seven to eighth km/ph to his rivals.

Just two points clear of Francesco Bagnaia in the MotoGP standings, Quartararo was able to do more than enough to find time in the corners during both practice sessions, but with Ducati and Bagnaia proving so often that they get stronger as the weekend develops, not to mention Espargaro had similar pace to Quartararo, the Frenchman could find himself in another tough situation come Sunday’s race. 

With more pace in his back pocket after a mistake on his best effort, Quartararo said: "I made a mistake on my fast lap so I’m happy to still be in the top five. I think we have a few things to try tomorrow to try and improve our feeling. 

"I think we still have a little margin [for improvement] on the pace. We saw one rider in Rins try the hard tyre and it looks like it's going well. What is strange is that the last corner onto the straight, it’s always wet on the curb and it’s always spinning. 

"We need to see if they can take it out and I think tyre wise - I think everyone will try the hard tomorrow. The soft is really, really soft. I feel like our pace is quite okay and I’ve got a few places that I can overtake on this track, so it should be a good track [for us]." 

Being able to overtake could be crucial to Quartararo getting a good result which is typically not something his M1 has allowed him to do much of this season.

Phillip Island is traditionally a circuit that produces great racing and sees multiple riders in contention for the win, so overtaking is paramount to being successful at the Australian circuit.

Fabio Quartararo Australian MotoGP, 14 October
Fabio Quartararo Australian MotoGP, 14 October

However, if Quartararo falls into the trap of struggling whilst behind others, then he could be a sitting duck on the start-finish straight. 

Asked about the speed deficit and where he can make back the time lost, Quartararo added: "In the corners! I don’t really know, I cannot really compare with other riders but for sure, where we need to improve is especially turn one. 

"We have a little bit of margin and Pol’s [Espargaro] first sector was quite impressive. I think in the corners we are quite okay but still there are a few things to improve." 

Tyres dropping ‘quite a lot’ - Quartararo

While tyres haven’t played a substantial role in deciding the last few Grand Prix, Sunday could be one of those days.

Quartararo’s plan of attack on day-one was more about finding speed than focusing on tyre conservation, although that will begin to shift on Saturday. 

"We have a mentality in the team that on the first day we just need to make the speed and don’t think too much about the tyres even if today’s was necessary," stated Quartararo. 

"Here [the tyres] are dropping quite a lot and it was quite a good afternoon, better than this morning. This morning was also about the track condition."

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