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MotoGP, Yamaha in alarm: ninth place for Quartararo the worst result ever in Qatar

Losail was a Yamaha-friendly track where it had won 10 times in the 18 GPs held from 2004 to 2021. Now the M1 seems to have lost all its strengths

MotoGP: Yamaha in alarm: ninth place for Quartararo the worst result ever in Qatar

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A good start is half the job, a good day starts in the morning: according to these popular sayings, starting on the right foot is fundamental, exactly the opposite of what Yamaha did in Qatar. Indeed, it is exactly the contrary because Fabio Quartararo's ninth place last Sunday is the worst result ever by an M1 at the Losail circuit.

The first year of racing on the desert track was 2004 and until two days ago that was the worst edition for the Iwata manufacturer. It was the year Valentino was penalized for having cleaned his grid slot, so he had to start from the back of the grid and then he crashed while he was recovering. Checa (who started from pole) was forced to retire with a breakdown and the best Yamaha rider at the chequered flag was Abe, 7th. Despite all the troubles, the M1 was competitive in Losail, as Carlos' best qualifying time had shown.

From then on, Qatar became a friendly track for Yamaha: from 2005 to 2018, there was always at least one M1 on the podium and on 8 occasions even in front of everyone. This positive streak was interrupted in 2019, when Rossi finished 5th, but still very close to the winner, with a gap of just 6 tenths from Dovizioso, who triumphed.

In 2020 there was no race due to Covid, while last year Vinales and Quartararo won the two editions of the GP (one called GP of Qatar and the other of Doha).

This year, however, everything went wrong, with Quartararo who, after getting through Q1, finished 11th ahead of Franco Morbidelli, while Dovizioso started 20th and the rookie Darryn Binder last.

If one race does not decide a season, the result of Qatar is an alarm bell, which follows those announced by Fabio throughout the winter. The Frenchman, from the first test in Jerez last November, had complained about the few evolutions to his M1 and his opinion did not change either in Malaysia or in Indonesia. What happened in Losail seems to prove him right.

"I'm worried, I can't be confident after a race like that," said Quartararo on Sunday evening. "We must not panic or lose our nerve until the first race in Europe" were the words of his teammate, who went even worse, crossing the line in 11th place 6 seconds away from his teammate, who was in turn 10 seconds from the winner.

There is also another interesting fact: last year Quartararo won the Doha GP (the second race) with a total time of 42'23.997, this year he raced the Qatar GP practically at the same time: 42’23.741. It is true that the race was brought forward by an hour and a half and also that in 2021 there was already 3 days of testing and an extra weekend at the Losail circuit, but if the M1 has improved, this progress has been minimal. However, it could have even been worse, because Bastianini won the race on Sunday in 42'13.198, that is, he was 12 seconds faster than Johann Zarco, who finished 2nd on the Ducati in last year's Doha GP on the GP21, the bike that Enea is riding (albeit with some evolution).

That something is not working is clear. Both Quartararo and Dovizioso (14th, more than 27 seconds behind Bastianini) complained of a rise in tyre pressure, a problem not so rare when you are in the middle of the group in the race, as happened to both the Frenchman and the Italian. In fact, last year, Fabio's favourite strategy was to qualify in the top positions, manage the initial phase of the race and then go on the break (in 2021 he never won a race in sprinting or battling until the last lap) .

The Frenchman is a flying lap specialist - which is fundamental to implement this strategy - and last year's M1 backed him up well, unlike the 2022 bike, another problem identified by the world champion in tests. Thus, Fabio found himself fighting with his hands tied and the result was disheartening.

The real problem is that it will not be easy to improve the weak point of top speed, because the engines are now sealed and all that remains is to work more closely on the electronics and with more room for intervention on the aerodynamics. Indeed, Quartararo asked for a new fairing in time for Mugello.

With the hope that on other tracks the M1 will show its muscles, otherwise this season could prove to be a bit of an ordeal for the men in blue…

 

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