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Road To The 2021 MotoGP Championship: Fabio Quartararo
From tipped ’title threat‘ when he debuted in the Moto3 class in 2015, to 2021 MotoGP World Champion in his first year with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team: Fabio Quartararo is a remarkable talent with an inspiring success story.
In his very first year with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team, Fabio Quartararo showed incredible speed, maturity, and heroic perseverance to secure the MotoGP World Championship Title with two rounds to spare. We invite you to have a look back with us on El Diablo‘s journey to the top of Grand Prix racing.
Quartararo was already a much-tipped name at the start of his Grand Prix racing career. He entered the Moto3 class in 2015 aged just 15, as the previous rule against participating in the Moto3™ World Championship until the age of 16 had been repealed that year. Being the 2013 and 2014 FIM CEV Moto3 Champion, the Frenchman was considered a title threat from the very beginning. Like many had predicted, he impressed from the start and already stood on the podium in just his second race, at the Circuit of The Americas. He repeated this feat in Assen after claiming pole at both Jerez and Le Mans. Unfortunately, a late-season ankle injury halted his progress, but he still finished the season in tenth place in the overall standings. It was the first sign of a booming career, though it wasn‘t always an easy ride.
He took thirteenth place in 2016 with the Leopard Racing team in the Moto3 class and repeated this ranking in 2017 with Paginas Amarillas HP40 in Moto2, again without any podiums. However, his impressive pace throughout his intermediate class debut allowed him to move to the Speed Up Racing team for his sophomore season.
It was in 2018 that he made big strides in the Moto2 championship and beyond. He took his first intermediate class pole and GP win at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. He followed it up with a second place at the TT Circuit Assen and ultimately took a top 10 finish in the final standings. In August 2018, it was also announced that Quartararo would join Franco Morbidelli at the newly created Yamaha satellite team, Petronas Yamaha SRT, in 2019. A big challenge – but the Frenchman was ready for it.
What followed in 2019 was nothing short of remarkable. El Diablo was keen to show those who doubted him what he was really capable of. He silenced the nay-sayers by taking an incredible seven podiums and six pole positions. He also wrapped up the season as Rookie of the Year, winner of the Independent Riders‘ Championship, and fifth in the overall World Championship.
Still missing his elusive debut win in the premier class, that became his key target for 2020. Despite the calendar changes due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, he didn‘t have to wait long. Quartararo dominated in Jerez in July, opening his campaign with a double win. In Catalunya, he scored his third win, but he struggled to carry the same performance through to the end of the season. However, over a total of 14 GPs he secured nine front-row starts, four of which were pole positions. It was clear the French prodigy had the speed, so now he would be aiming for consistency to secure his first championship win.
In 2021, Quartararo fulfilled two of his dreams in one season: following in the footsteps of his idol Valentino Rossi by joining the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team and becoming a MotoGP World Champion – and he made it almost look easy.
Quartararo had already established himself as an incredible talent, so naturally, the expectations of the fans and media were high. Whilst the team tried to avoid putting any pressure on him, the young Frenchman couldn‘t help but feel a little nervous at the first round. He still took fifth place, a very respectable Factory Team debut result. The team was satisfied, but Quartararo was not. He knew he could do better, and he was determined to show it the very next week at the second race in Doha. Though it was one of only two races this year where he didn‘t start from the first row, he did secure his first win with the Factory Team.
The number-20 rider showed that his first top result wasn‘t a fluke by winning the next round in Portimão, and he could have won the next race in Jerez too for a hattrick if it wasn‘t for a sudden Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CECS or ’arm pump‘) problem mid-race while in the lead. However, his perseverance showed as he still completed the race in 13th place (his lowest result of the entire season). Thankfully this issue was quickly resolved through surgery, and a mere week later he was celebrating a third place, having overcome the wet conditions in Le Mans.
With one week off between the French and the Italian GP, Quartararo was ready to go all out in Mugello. He had a great weekend and scored a brilliant victory, which the team considered telling. Though a home race, the Mugello track is not typically known as one of the best tracks for the Factory Team. That El Diablo was able to extract the best from the YZR-M1 even at this notoriously technically challenging circuit was very promising for the remainder of the season.
Quartararo was again a podium contender in a somewhat chaotic Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya. He had held firm in third place but ultimately ended up sixth after receiving two 3-second penalties (one for taking a shortcut after running wide and another for unzipping his leathers mid-race). But the Frenchman took it in his stride and rode to a third place in Sachsenring two weeks later, even when again this circuit‘s layout is not the most suited for the Yamaha‘s smooth lines and high corner speed. The TT Circuit Assen on the other hand is, and he took a victory there one week later to close the first half of the season in the best way possible. Then teammate Maverick Viñales made it an even more memorable day for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. He secured second place, thus achieving a 1-2 for the Factory Team – its first since the 2017 Argentina GP – and making it Yamaha's 750th and 751st podium finish in the premier class.
After a four-week summer break, the Frenchman started the second half of the season refreshed, which was much needed for the eventful Grand Prix of Styria. The first race got red-flagged on lap 3, but Quartararo kept his head cool and rode his M1 to a podium finish. This stellar third-place tasted even sweeter as he extended his championship lead to 40 points – at yet another demanding track for Yamaha – and became a championship-winning favorite. He was keen to repeat the performance again the week after at the Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich. He was on route for a podium place, but rain in the last three laps spoiled his plans. Having swapped to his rain bike late, he fell back to P14 and had to balance wanting to score as many points as possible with not taking too much risk and hurting his championship chances. He ultimately made a quick dash to salvage a brave seventh place and extended his lead in the championship by seven points.
A fortnight later, Quartararo's star shone bright again. The Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team could celebrate a significant victory at the Monster Energy British Grand Prix. Being fully in control, nobody could match the Frenchman's level aboard the YZR-M1. He took the checkered flag with a convincing 2.663s margin to second and left the Silverstone circuit with a 65-point lead in the championship.
The Factory Team headed into the next round, the Grand Prix de Aragon, on a high, but Round 13 proved ’unlucky‘ for the Frenchman. He had a difficult outing at the MotorLand Aragón and had to put up a strong fight. Thanks to defensive and courageous riding, he secured eighth place and collected eight crucial championship points. Keen to make a strong comeback at the Gran Premio di San Marino e Della Riviera di Rimini, Quartararo was on a mission – and he delivered. The Yamaha man charged until the very end of the 27-lap race to ultimately take second place and 20 crucial championship points.
The Misano podium was a boost for the championship leader heading into the Grand Prix of The Americas, but it was also the start of a change in mindset. Whereas before Quartararo had always ’lived in the moment‘ and raced for wins and podiums in every race, the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP man now decided to opt for more championship standings orientated strategy at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). He delivered a mature ride, balancing on a fine line between defending second place and chasing the race leader. He extended his margin in the standings to 52 points in the process, giving him his first match point for the second race in Misano.
The pressure was on during the Emilia-Romagna GP. He had to start the race from 15th place on the grid with his title rival starting from pole position. But Quartararo is the type of rider to never give up. He rode a superb race, cutting through the pack. With Bagnaia ultimately crashing out of the race in the latter stages, Quartararo was certain of a championship win. Still, he wouldn‘t be El Diablo if he didn't get into a last-minute scrap to keep the fans on the edge of their seat. He ultimately finished in fourth place after a brilliant and champion-worthy ride.
Winning the 2021 MotoGP World Championship in his debut year with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team is a dream come true for Quartararo. He achieved his lifetime goal, yet it is only just the start of his already incredibly successful partnership with the Factory Team that already brought 5 GP wins, 10 podiums, 14 front-row starts, 5 pole positions, 5 fastest laps, and 1 World Championship Title up until now.
All in all, the time-old strategy of ’speed and consistency‘ was the key to success. However, what let Quartararo truly step into the footsteps of his idol Rossi was a ’secret ingredient‘. This season he was able to keep relentless focus, show calm determination, and consistently delivered point-scoring performances even on his ’bad days‘ by having genuine fun on the bike. The joy he feels in the heat of qualifying and race battles is infectious and earned him a large and quickly growing fan base, who are surely overjoyed with Quartararo‘s 2021 MotoGP World Championship Title victory.
The final words go to champion: “I still can't believe it! I can't even talk... It feels amazing. Maybe later I can talk a bit more. Right now, I'm living the dream! It feels good to also have my family with me, and we will enjoy this a lot tonight and until the end of the season.
"Of course this was not the way I wanted Pecco's weekend to end, but I'm happy he's okay. Now we are the World Champion. I have no words and I have no more liquid left in my body to cry. It feels so good, but I can't even describe what I'm feeling right now. To be on the podium with a big part of my family and my family from the circuit - I have no words.
"MotoGP has been going on for quite a long time. To be the first Frenchman to win it is amazing. I'm also happy for Yamaha. Since 2015 they didn't win a title, and today we won it again. It's an amazing feeling!”