A 'disaster day' at Aragon cost for Fabio Quartararo the MotoGP title lead he had held throughout the previous nine rounds.

Starting on pole position, the young Frenchman wouldn't even finish in the points as a 'strange' problem sent his front tyre pressure 'totally out of control' after just 3 of 23 laps.

The only positive for the Petronas Yamaha star was that his title rivals failed to fully capitalise.

Nearest challenger and new world championship leader Joan Mir was third behind Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins and Repsol Honda rookie Alex Marquez, while Maverick Vinales (Yamaha) finished fourth and Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) seventh.

"Today was a disaster day but it could have been even worse if Mir won, Maverick second, Dovi third," Quartararo said. "In our negative, we need to think about the small positive we had today which is that both Alexes finished in front of Joan."

Mir, the first Suzuki rider to ever lead the four-stroke MotoGP standings, now has a slender six-point lead over Quartararo with four rounds remaining. Vinales is 12 behind and Dovizioso 15 from the top.

Of the title quartet, Quartararo stands out as the only satellite team rider.

As such, while he may have battled an overload of tyre pressure on Sunday, Quartararo insists the mental pressure is much bigger for his rivals.

"The pressure is not really on me. I was leading the championship but the team was only born last year, it's my second year, I'm not in a factory team," said Quartararo.

"At the end the pressure is on the factory riders. So I'm feeling good, just a tough race with a technical problem. But I'm feeling okay. It could have been worse."

'The front pressure went totally out of control'

Quartararo slotted into second behind Vinales on lap 1, where he remained until lap 4, when he began a decline that would end in the triple race winner taking the chequered flag in just 18th place.

"We need to think why the front pressure went totally out of control, out of normal. It's so strange. We had the pace to fight for, I will not say victory or podium, but the top five or six," Quartararo said.

"That would have been great but like I said the front tyre just went out of control and we don’t know why. This is something we need to [investigate] for the next race."

Unlike factory Yamaha's Vinales, who finished a fraction behind Mir and the podium using the soft front tyre, Quartararo opted for the medium. Might that have been the issue?

"No, for me the tyre choice was correct because the first 3 laps were perfect. I had a great feeling and I was riding 48.6-48.5 that I never did during the weekend and the feeling with the front was even better than the soft," Quartararo explained. "But the problem was that from lap 3 we already had the pressure much higher than normal.

"So you can imagine in the middle of the race how high the pressure was and – I can't say the numbers – but it was totally out of control and we never ride in these conditions.

"Normally we always have a little bit [of pressure rise] but not that much. It was out of normal. We never had it last year, not even half of what we had today.

"So I couldn't brake, couldn't turn, couldn't lean the bike. That the reason why I was going so wide and couldn't stop the bike.

"It's difficult to understand and the team is now looking for that and for sure we need to see exactly what was the problem."

With the second Aragon round starting on Friday morning, the clock is ticking for Quartararo, Petronas and Yamaha to come up with a solution to avoid another hefty loss of points.

"It was one of the only races that I didn’t learn anything because it's not something that was from my riding style, it was something strange on the bike. A technical issue that couldn't make me fast," Quartararo said.

"I normally don't blame something on the bike but today was something that was unrideable and it was not in a normal condition. So strange. But finally for next weekend we will try to fix the problem, which for me was only the pressure of the front tyre.

"Then for sure we will try to improve the consistency of the tyres."

'Suzuki really fast, but we can fight'

Consistency of tyre grip throughout a grand prix distance is something Mir's Suzuki does extremely well.

Similar consistency is mirrored by his race results and, although yet to win in MotoGP, the Spaniard has been on the podium five times in the last seven rounds, compared with just once for Quartararo.

"It looks like the Suzuki is really fast [but] I think that we can fight with them," Quartararo said. "Maybe in Aragon it's difficult, but then we will arrive in Valencia where normally we are fast. In November test with the new tyres we were going so fast and I think we can fight with them.

"But we need to be really clever. The next race will be so important, not to lose many points and try even to win some points back. But I feel we can fight with them. At the end it's only 6 points at the moment and we can fight for a great result.

"We have a little bit more than them in the first laps and for qualifying, I think it's really only their rear tyre consistency that is much better.

"If they can find initial grip from the first lap they are really fast and that's why they make this kind of result; podium, podium, podium. It looks like they are having a really good time."

But it wasn't just the Suzukis that caught Quartararo's eye on Sunday.

"For me the rider that impressed me a lot is Alex [Marquez]," he said of the Repsol Honda rookie. "When you do a podium you always take the confidence to go faster.

"Alex did his podium in the wet [at Le Mans] but everything he did in this race was a big step and I didn't expect that much. For sure I was expecting an improvement but a big step like that I haven't seen for a long time."

Quartararo's team-mate Franco Morbidelli finished in sixth place.

 

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