Everything looks in place for Petronas Yamaha to climb closer to the top of the MotoGP tree in 2020.

Both the team and star rider Fabio Quartararo have a season's worth of MotoGP experience under their belts, with the Frenchman also promoted to factory-spec machinery after spending most of last year on the lowest grade M1.

Given that Quartararo was still able to take six poles, seven podiums and fifth in the world championship as a rookie, the natural conclusion for team principal Razlan Razali is that it's a 'yes' - on paper - for a 2020 title challenge

"Based on what Fabio has done last year and based on the machine he is receiving from Yamaha, everything seems to be 'yes' in terms of fighting for the championship," Razali told the official MotoGP website.

"We have set a high benchmark from our rookie year. We had a number of podiums and pole positions. Of course, the expectation is for us to do better. Our competitors are hoping that we don’t, but we are here to win some races.

"With the new factory spec that we've received for Fabio and an improved spec that we’ve got for Frankie, we should be able to fight for the championship. For me personally, to be on the top step of the podium at last once this year would already be a good thing."

Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg, who previously helped Jorge Lorenzo to three MotoGP titles at Yamaha, added:

"Fabio has proven to be fast at many tracks and if he does that again this season and he can fight for the podium every weekend then, for sure after ten races we have to see where he is, but if you can finish ten races on the podium you fight for the title. That's clear for everybody. But to do that is not easy."

While Quartararo spent last season on a 'B-spec' M1, included 500rpm less until Thailand, he has now leapfrogged ahead of team-mate Franco Morbidelli onto the new 'Factory-spec' offering,

Quartararo's bike is currently equal to official Yamaha riders Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi. Meanwhile, although Morbidelli has remained at 'A-spec' level, he also has an improved machine for 2020.

The biggest difference between Morbidelli's bike and the other M1s is the engine, the Italian having an evolution of the 2019 powerplant while the others have a new design. The obvious visible distinction is in the shape of the air intake.

"Yamaha has [built] one bike that is the 2020 Factory bike and another [A-Spec] bike that has an improved version of last year's [engine]," Razali confirmed.

"So we have the best of both worlds and based on the tests both bikes work very well."

Zeelenberg revealed that Quartararo had been able to secure the Factory-spec as part of his 2021 Yamaha contract negotiations.

"Fabio was talking with Yamaha for his contract for the future and he said, 'okay, I want to stay with Yamaha and one of my requests is I want to have the factory bike for this season'. So he gets it," said the Dutchman.

Quartararo, Morbidelli and Petronas were also eager to improve in other areas for 2020.

"It was clear that Fabio could do a very good lap but he was sometimes confused when the bike was not as he expected at the beginning of races," Zeelenberg said. "So we've tried to fine tune that to be better especially with his feelings with the fresh bike.

"Also with Franco, he understood that he needed to step up the game and try to analyse in more detail why he always struggled in the middle of races, losing the feeling with the bike.

"These are the two points we've concentrated on."

Quartararo was quickest on four of the six days of pre-season testing, but edged into third by Morbidelli as Vinales led an all-Yamaha top-three at the conclusion of the final test in Qatar.

"We've been quite satisfied with testing," said Zeelenberg, winner of the 1990 West German 250GP.

But the Yamaha riders were unable to carry their Losail pace straight into the season-opening Qatar race weekend when coronavirus restrictions cased the MotoGP event to be cancelled.

The exact start of the season remains cloaked in mystery. But whatever happens when racing finally gets underway, the Sepang squad already knows it will need at least one new rider next season to replace the departing Quartararo.

Valentino Rossi, who has lost his factory Yamaha team seat to the #20, is guaranteed a satellite ride by Yamaha should he choose to race on next season. At present, that could only occur by joining Petronas, a team that has already impressed the nine-time world champion.

"Petronas is the best option because they have a good team, a young team so they can improve, they have money, they are serious," Rossi said.

But Razali revealed no direct talks between Rossi and Petronas have yet taken place.

"It's an interesting proposition. But we don't know anything as yet because we did not sit down at all to discuss anything," he said.

"Whether it's good for the team, whether it's food for Valentino Rossi or not is yet to be seen.

"There's a lot talk between Valentino Rossi and Yamaha but it's never included us, so we do not want to speculate until there is a formal meeting between the two parties - then we will understand exactly the details."

Morbidelli, tenth in last year's championship with a best race finish of fifth, is also out of contract at the end of this season.

 

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