Quartararo: ‘We put a new tyre, and it's a nightmare’

The Sepang MotoGP test came to a bittersweet end for Fabio Quartararo on Sunday.
Fabio Quartararo, Sepang MotoGP test, 11 February
Fabio Quartararo, Sepang MotoGP test, 11 February

The former world champion was impressed with the top speed and used tyre performance of his prototype Yamaha but was in for a nasty surprise when new rubber and light fuel was used for a qualifying-style time attack.

Qualifying will be more important than ever this season with each result now deciding grid positions for two race starts, the new Saturday Sprint as well Sunday’s Grand Prix.

But Quartararo - like team-mate Franco Morbidelli – was unable to make significant gains on the new tyre, leaving the pair just 19th and 20th on the timesheets (+1.054s and +1.097s).

Remote video URL

“Mixed feelings I would say. I'm pretty happy of course about the top speed, which is something that I've asked for a long time,” began Quartararo, who crossed the speed trap at 335.4km/h, just 2.1km/h behind the fastest of the Ducatis.

The #20 also worked his way through a vast list of upgrades including two different engine specs, different chassis, swingarm and aerodynamic parts.

“We had many things to try and again I'm pretty happy because this is what we asked for, to test many parts," he said.

“Today was great in some areas and with old tyres I'm feeling super happy. With almost 22 laps on the tyre I made [2m] 0.0.

"Then we put a new tyre, and it's a nightmare.

“So we have to figure out why with the new tyre we cannot make a step forward.

“Last year in qualifying here we struggled too, but it's not the reason we are one second behind and it’s not looking so good, so hopefully in Portimao we find the solution.”

Fabio Quartararo, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February
Fabio Quartararo, Sepang MotoGP test, 12 February

‘It's like, what is happening?’

Most puzzling was that Quartararo felt no obvious area of weakness during the qualifying laps.

“If I don't look at the screen and don't see the lap time, I feel like I'm riding in ‘58 low. But then I look at the lap time and I'm ’59 low.

"It's like, what is happening?

“It’s not that I arrived back to the box and said, ‘I'm losing the front everywhere’ or ‘I have no grip’. I don't know what is going on and this is the biggest problem. So yeah, this is the biggest question mark."

However it does continue a trend of dimishing qualifying form, with Quartararo taking just one pole position last year compared to six in his rookie 2019 season.

“I feel like every year we have been dropping so much in qualifying [performance]," he said.

"In ‘19, my first year, I made a lot of pole positions. Then dropping, dropping and now it’s impossible and the worst thing is that we don't know why.”


If the Sepang timesheet is repeated in a grand prix weekend, Quartararo knows his chances of victory would be all but over.

“[Qualifying] is the most important thing right now, and there will be the Sprint races also,” he said.

“So riding [2m] 0.0 low with 18-19-20-21 laps on the tyre, faster than my fastest lap in the race, I can be happy.

“But right now, to fight for victory in MotoGP, I think that 80% comes from the qualifying.”

Quartararo and Yamaha now have just two more days of pre-season testing, at Portimao on March 11-12, before the new racing season begins at the same Portimao circuit on March 24-26.

Read More