Yamaha’s brutal honesty: “Hoped to be closer, didn’t expect rivals’ big step”

"I did not expect that the competitors would make this big step," Yamaha team director admits

Fabio Quartararo, Qatar MotoGP test, 19 February
Fabio Quartararo, Qatar MotoGP test, 19 February

The Yamaha boss has offered a brutally honest assessment ahead of the 2024 MotoGP season.

Concession rules were introduced to give the flailing Yamaha and Honda a boost in their pursuit of the dominant Ducatis.

But, with preseason now concluded and the season starting on March 8, Yamaha are admitting surprise at aspects of their own development.

Team director Massimo Meregalli said in Qatar: “Here, we could prove what we saw in Malaysia.

“All the improvements that we have done there, we basically saw here.

“With a slight improvement in top speed.

But the gap to our competitor is still important.

“Honestly, I hoped that we would be closer.

“Honestly, I did not expect that the competitors would make this big step.”

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A recurring theme for Yamaha is their qualifying pace.

Fabio Quartararo repeatedly faced problems even entering Q2 last season.

The prognosis is not good for his hopes that those struggles might ease.

“Unfortunately, no,” Meregalli admitted.

“The pace is not bad. For sure, not in the top three, but it’s not bad.

“Especially here, more than in Sepang, the gap during the time attacks is still important.

“It’s the point where we should focus all of the energy that we have.

“Many times, to start from the front gives you benefits.

“It is an area that we have to improve.”

Quartararo previously assessed his time attacks during preseason testing: “It was good to see the 1m 51s but we are still far from the top.

“We have a lot of work to do.

“Hopefully we can find a solution during the season. We are still far away but it was positive.”

There are some benefits to the 2024 Yamaha though.

The M1’s new engine pushed Quartararo to third, and Alex Rins to fifth, in the top speed chart on Day 2 of Qatar testing.

“I think Yamaha has improved the engine,” Rins said.

“On the straight we were quite strong, so they did a good job during the winter break.”

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