Quartararo 14th: ‘I feel like it's not my bike anymore’

Fabio Quartararo will need to fight his way through Qualifying 1 after being left just 14th fastest in Friday practice for the MotoGP of Argentina.
Fabio Quartararo, Argentina MotoGP, 31 March
Fabio Quartararo, Argentina MotoGP, 31 March

The former world champion improved by one place over the pair of Friday sessions, which he finished just 0.746s from Aprilia leader Aleix Espargaro.

But it was Quartararo’s lack of corner speed on the M1, normally his key strength, that left the Frenchman - seen punching the fuel tank and looking agitated in the pits - most concerned.

Quartararo was also slower than team-mate Franco Morbidelli in both sessions, with the Italian’s ninth place securing direct access to Qualifying 2.

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“We don't know why [that's] the biggest problem, because it's a very bad day,” Quartararo said.

“The worst thing is the feeling is not so bad, but there are many things with the rear going in [to the corner] that means we cannot make corner speed.

“Our pace is usually quite good, but today the pace apart from the first run in FP2, was bad.

“I don't know why we are that far because we have not changed many things on the bike, and I feel like it's not my bike anymore. It's not a good feeling.”

Quartararo was 0.793s slower than his best time in Friday practice last season. For comparison, Espargaro was only 0.274s slower than one year ago, when he was also fastest.

Fabio Quartararo, Argentina MotoGP, 31 March
Fabio Quartararo, Argentina MotoGP, 31 March

“Today was much worse than Portimão,” Quartararo added, referring to last weekend’s season opener. “In Portimao, the qualifying was not good, but the pace was great. If you check the pace, it was to fight for the top five.”

The #20 confirmed that changing the length and height of his bike, the usual tactic when facing low grip conditions, had not made any difference.

Nor had reducing the engine brake to try and help corner speed.

“We went more free with the engine brake to get more corner speed, but it was exactly the same problem,” Quartararo explained.

“Basically the feeling is I cannot make corner speed, so without making the corner speed, I try to open the gas a little bit more aggressively, [but] there is no grip [here], so I spin even more.

“So making no corner speed in this track is even worse. Because even if you pick the bike up, the tyre is spinning."

Although only eighth in last year's Termas de Rio Hondo race, Quartararo still “expected much better" of this weekend: "Because if you check last year in the warm-up, we had one of the strongest paces. I was in 1'38, last year and I made the same lap time with 18 laps on the tyre.

“I don't understand [why] we are that slow in this situation.”

Quartararo, who could only qualify eleventh at Portimao, recovered to tenth (Sprint) and then eighth (Sunday) in the season-opening races, leaving him 29 points behind Ducati's Francesco Bagnaia.

Franco Morbidelli, Argentina MotoGP, 31 March
Franco Morbidelli, Argentina MotoGP, 31 March

By contrast, Morbidelli had one of his best Fridays for a long time.

"Today was a good day for us, we managed to get direct into Q2," he said. "The weekend immediately started with a different rhythm compared to Portimao and I’m happy to see that.

"We need to keep going forward and keep working and try to be quick. Tomorrow it will be nice to start in th front two rows. That is my weekend dream and let’s see if it is feasible. We are much closer pace-wise than hot-lap-wise but looking at my last year’s performance average I definitely need to be happy.

"I think the low grip is helping," he admitted. "I hope [we've found] a good step but I don’t know. We need to go ahead and see."

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