MotoGP debutant Fabio Quartararo had more eyes on him than special guest five-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton in the Petronas Yamaha garage after bolting to fifth place in qualifying in Qatar.

The 19-year-old became a surprise runner for pole position following his first run in Q2 by briefly holding second place behind Monster Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales and conceded after qualifying his target had been somewhere on the third row.

But on his second run the MotoGP rookie improved his personal best lap time again to slot into the middle spot on the second row, just 0.400s off pole-sitter Vinales, before his premier class debut at the Losail International Circuit tomorrow.

“I am really happy about the qualifying. We knew that we were fast yesterday but the conditions yesterday were better,” Quartararo said. “We saw in FP2 we could go faster than now but we were on the limit like everybody at the second corner. I am happy to make P5 and also not to crash.

“My goal was to be in the top eight or nine, we knew that was difficult to be there because there are big riders in Q2. When I saw the first laps and I made a 54.3s and I think I was P3 or P4 and I was thinking ‘that is quite good’, to at least have a lap. When I put in the second tyre I said okay I need to improve because everybody will make a 54s low or 53s high so we reached to be under the 54s.”

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Quartararo conceded he was keen “to take care” in the tricky conditions at Turn 2, where four riders went down during both qualifying sessions, to demonstrate the maturity which helped him secure his MotoGP spot despite being the youngest rider on the 2019 grid.

“When you see some riders crashing like corners one, five six or seven you think okay they made a mistake,” he said. “But everybody is crashing at the second corner so in your mind you need to be careful at this corner. It is also qualifying so you need to be on the limit and be careful so that was really difficult to take care.”

While Quartararo accepts he goes into his MotoGP race debut with numerous unknowns he’s naturally eager to keep pace with the front-running pack to pick up vital early race craft learnings and cap his impressive maiden premier class outing with a result to match his practice and qualifying pace.

“I have my pace and I checked the pace of the other riders, but I am just thinking about trying to follow them,” he said. “We can follow them but we don’t know about the last five laps, that is where the question is.

“Also how to manage the MotoGP race because when you make a race simulation sometimes you are alone or sometimes you have other riders six seconds in front. But in the race it is 22 riders at the start.

“Let’s see what happens. The difficult thing is I have no experience but step-by-step we will improve the race.”

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