Quartararo, who has just one top five finish through the opening four MotoGP races, looks set for a difficult remainder to the 2022 season following Yamaha’s inability to strengthen its current package.
While the M1 remains one of the better balanced machines on the grid, top speed problems continued to hinder the Frenchman, who regularly finishes towards the bottom end of the top speed charts.
Also playing a huge role in his failure to deliver a win thus far is the lack of grip at three of the four rounds.
Mandalika seemed to suggest Quartararo and Yamaha found their form, and while the 22 year-old was at times almost in Argentina, so to Austin, when it mattered most of the current world champion had no answer for the likes of Ducati, Aprilia and Suzuki.
Quartararo, who rarely crashes, in fact his fall during qualifying at COTA was his first tumble of the season, went beyond the limit in a bid to out-qualify a quintet of Ducati’s – failed to do so – which proved enough to wreck his race .
With the Yamaha struggling to overtake other bikes due to its top end struggles and lack of grip at circuits where grip is not easily generated, it means Quartararo’s weekends appear to be heavily conditioned by where he starts.
What can I do?” said Quartararo following Sunday’s race. “I can’t do anything. If you check today, I was sixth [on the grid] and I was the first bike that wasn’t a Ducati.
“So if I can do something I would. What I can do is to give my 100% and to try to fight for the best.”
Asked about his impression of the bike, Quartararo gave an even shorter assessment: “I will keep it for myself.”
Clearly frustrated, unhappy, annoyed by the lack of improvements, Quartararo’s attempts at winning back-to-back titles are already looking difficult.
Quartararo laments a lack of grip…
As mentioned above, grip is also proving to be an issue for Yamaha, something we haven’t seen much of from Yamaha, at least in the hands of Quartararo since he joined the factory team in 2021.
However, Austin showcased just that: “In the beginning of the race, it’s a little bit the same problem of Argentina, but much less. Basically we are missing that initial grip compared to the others.
“But I think I defended quite OK. In the beginning it was very very difficult, because everybody is more tight and with the straight, unfortunately we were losing quite a lot. But I think we made a really good race, I enjoyed a lot and I think we battled really hard.
“Even if it was for the sixth position, I enjoyed a lot the battle with Marc [Marquez]. Just, even if we are struggling a lot, I think that the position that we finished… how do you say? For me, I learn much more from these kinds of races than some races that I won and I didn’t learn anything.
“Today I learned a lot, and I’m happy. Because even if I have less power, you push yourself to the limit. So the day I will have the power, I will have much better results.”
Will that ‘power’ come from Yamaha or with a move Honda, Ducati?
Yes Quartararo was happy with his performance in Austin, but not challenging for wins will be playing on his mind in what’s a contract year.
Yamaha have been adamant that retaining the world champion is their highest priority, but given the lack of development that’s not only been shown this season, but previous years too, will Quartararo want a new challenge?
Quartararo wouldn’t be drawn on that subject during the pre-event press conference, but his manager Eric Mahe was when speaking to MotoGP.com.
“No update. We are checking all the parameters let’s say. We just need to know where Fabio can achieve the best results possible and where we are at, at this stage,” said Mahe. “And then we are a bit lucky because a few years ago a decision like this would have been taken 18 months in advance so at this stage there is no rush so it’s a good situation.
“[There is] no rush, and then I can imagine there is no rush for Yamaha so we are investigating everything and then we’ll see what happens. [It’s] not a question of offers, we are in talks. We are trying to best understand what the best for Fabio could be.”
Asked if Quartararo is open to switching Yamaha for another brand, Mahe continued: “Yes, for sure. “We have great respect for Yamaha but due to certain reasons I cannot say, we have to think about it.”
Honda and Ducati arguably possess the biggest attraction on the grid, while they are also expected to have significant turnover next season.
Both have shown interest in Quartararo already, and with Jack Miller and Pol Espargaro in danger of losing their factory riders for 2023, options are most certainly there for Quartararo.
Ducati might be a tougher move to make for Quartararo as current championship leader Enea Bastianini and Pramac rider Jorge Martin are likely to fight it out for the factory seat alongside Francesco Bagnaia, however, signing a world champion would be a big statement of intent.
All signs still point to Quartararo remaining with Yamaha, but we’ve seen stranger things happen.