Quartararo 'fast, ready' but M1 on the limit, 'nightmare' race simulation

Fabio Quartararo among fastest for race pace and time attack during final MotoGP pre-season test in Mandalika, but fears he has already reached the limit with the new Yamaha.
Fabio Quartararo, Indonesia MotoGP test, 12 February 2022
Fabio Quartararo, Indonesia MotoGP test, 12 February 2022
© Gold and Goose

A somewhat mixed picture was painted by reigning MotoGP champion Fabio Quartararo at the end of 2022 pre-season testing at Indonesia's Mandalika circuit.

Still facing a disappointing top speed deficit, which Quartararo estimated at an unchanged 9km/h relative to last year, the Monster Yamaha rider was nonetheless ranked 5th, 4th and then 2nd on the end-of-day timesheets.

That was despite feeling that he wasn't gaining enough time on new tyres, compared to old rubber. And in terms of all-important race pace, or average lap time, Quartararo was at - or very near - the top of most people's lists.

The young Frenchman had described his pace on used tyres as "super-fast" on day two, an accolade he planned to confirm during a race simulation on the final day.

"Tomorrow I will make a race simulation, or a long run let's say. I will not make the full 27 laps but between 15-20 laps. I think it will be fast, but let's see," he said on Saturday.

Quartararo duly completed an 18-lap race simulation on the final day, using the medium rear tyre expected to be brought for next month's race weekend (rather than the faster, soft rear, which could be dropped from the allocation).

It's at this point that things get more complicated.

Quartararo's average pace over those 18 laps, excluding a slow 1m 47s near the end, was 1m 33.155s. Faster than just about everyone else during their simulations.

Admittedly, many riders - including the factory Ducatis - did their long runs later in the day, when temperatures were hotter and the track slower. But it was still a surprise to hear Quartararo later describe the simulation as 'a nightmare'.

"We decided with the team to go with the medium tyre for the race simulation, because they said the soft will not be here for the race," Quartararo confirmed.

"But actually it was a nightmare of a race simulation, I never had such a bad feeling with the rear tyre. Just after the race simulation, I arrived with an old, old soft, and I was more than half-a-second faster.

"So I'm really happy with the pace, actually. Even this afternoon I did '31.6 with 10 laps on the rear tyre, so it's really good. I think we made a great job, we adapted ourself to the bike, and I think our pace is strong. So this is why I feel like we made a good step in the afternoon."

"We are impressed with Fabio‘s race pace and his time attack today," underlined team director Massimo Meregalli.

However, Quartararo warned that there is not much more to be squeezed from the current M1 package.

"More than the lap time improving, my feeling with the bike was much better, but we arrived to the limit, unfortunately. I felt on the limit everywhere, and the lap time was good, but I expected a little bit better," he said.

"But let's see. Qatar will be another story but from my side I'm 100% ready."

Pressed on already reaching the limit with this year's M1, he added: "To be honest, I don't know where we can improve. When you start to feel the front moving everywhere, the rear is spinning at the limit, you're touching the elbow everywhere, it's difficult to find more.

"But for me what is important is that the team, especially Yamaha, work a lot in this area to find whatever, to have more speed to feel myself less on the limit. Because to be honest, to ride at this pace, every time I go on track, I need to push so much.

"At the end, it's something that for sure every rider is on the limit, but it's quite tough for us."

The obvious concern for Quartararo is that the lightly-refined 2022 Yamaha will be taking on substantially modified new bikes from the likes of Honda and Ducati, which are likely to be a long way from their limit at present.

Fastest in terms of average pace during a race simulation on the final day was LCR Honda's Takaaki Nakagami (1m 33.0s, with slow laps removed) on the new RC213V, closely followed by team-mate Alex Marquez (1m 33.0s, although both also did their long runs earlier in the day than the Ducatis and it's not clear exactly which rear tyre they were using).

Factory Repsol riders Pol Espargaro, the fastest over a single lap, and Marc Marquez did not do a final day race simulation but their average pace looked second only to Quartararo.

"If you check all the Honda riders, the pace is amazing," Quartararo confirmed. "You look at Pol, he's for me the fastest, or pretty close. Marc [Marquez] is super fast, Alex [Marquez] is super fast also, Taka made a really great race simulation. So the four Hondas are really fast. And you can see the bike is working in a different way."

Quartararo's team-mate Franco Morbidelli was fifth on the timesheets after a late flying lap. The Italian did not do a race simulation but Chris Pike put him tenth for average pace.

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