MotoGP title leader Fabio Quartararo rates his early 2021 victories in Qatar and Portimao as the stand-out moment of the season so far, for different reasons.

The Losail win, in the second of the back-to-back season-openers, was his first as a Factory Yamaha rider after replacing nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi at the start of the year.

"To be honest in the beginning of the year I had, not pressure from the team, but more pressure from the outside," Quartararo said. "Even if I tried not to hear it, you are having the place of the king, of Vale, and you always have this kind of small pressure.

"Even comments from some of the media like, 'You need to do well, you have an important spot with the team'. I was like, stop with it. I was so happy with the victory in Qatar because since that moment I didn’t hear that rumour anymore."

Quartararo's second big win came next time out in Portimao, a circuit where he had finished in just 14th place on his Petronas Yamaha farewell last November.

"When I won in Portimao, it was something that was really important for my mind because 2020 was a disaster and this year it was amazing," Quartararo said.

"So it was a clear moment in my mind from the beginning of the season. I expected to do a good start, but not as good as this one."

Quartararo heads into the summer break having added two further victories, at Mugello and Assen, and holding a confident 34-point lead over nearest rival Johann Zarco (Pramac Ducati).

That includes podiums in six of the nine rounds, but it could easily have been eight of nine without the arm pump problem at Jerez and 'wardrobe malfunction' in Catalunya.

But Quartararo insists that the 2021 MotoGP title is certainly not 'his to lose'.

"I’m in a really good moment in my career. I have the extra confidence that every time I’m on the bike I feel better," said the young Frenchman. "I’m just feeling super good and super confident. It means that I’m fast and I want to keep this mood until the last race of the season.

"But the championship is wide open. For me, everyone is fast so I don't want to make a mistake.

"I don’t really see clearly one [person as a rival]. Joan is super fast. The Ducatis are super fast… But the most important thing right now is I want to focus on myself and try to take the best out of myself in every race.

"Even if one guy finishes in front of me, two guys, three guys, I will know that I gave my maximum. I think this is the best way.

"Of course, we have a good advantage in the championship, but we need to at least start the second part of the season exactly as we started the first race in Qatar. "

Quartararo's race-by-race approach is especially wise since it's still not clear exactly how many races are remaining in the 2021 season.

Ten rounds remain officially listed, plus Argentina (still currently postponed rather than joining Finland and Japan on the cancelled list) but few expect all of those events to take place.

Could Morbidelli join Quartararo in 2022?

Quartararo's team-mate Maverick Vinales is the only other Yamaha rider to win a race so far this year, in the Qatar opener.

However the Spaniard - sixth in the championship after finally returning to the rostrum in Assen, but now 61 points behind Quartararo - has asked to be released from his contract at the end of this year.

Quartararo's former team-mate Franco Morbidelli is the obvious candidate to take Vinales' Factory Yamaha place, but the Sepang Racing Team (which has some form of contract/option with the Italian for next year) insists it's just speculation and not something that has been seriously discussed at this stage.

The Malaysian team is currently working on renewing deals with title-sponsor Petronas and Yamaha for 2022, when it might yet need two new riders should Valentino Rossi depart.

Meanwhile, Turkish star Toprak Razgatlioglu, another name linked with a Yamaha MotoGP seat next season, now looks set to stay in WorldSBK for another two years.

MotoGP 2021 | Crash MotoGP Podcast Ep.9 | Assen Review, Vinales & Yamaha Split, Summer Break Begins