Since rejoining the Yamaha MotoGP project in the middle of the 2021 season, three-time championship runner-up Andrea Dovizioso’s results have been somewhat underwhelming. But, brought onboard partly to bring some much-needed development experience to the manufacturer, the RNF Yamaha racer is pushing to move the M1 in the direction he believes holds the answers.
Even since before he clinched the 2021 world title, factory racer Fabio Quartararo has expressed a wish for one thing and only one thing from the bike: more power.
Increasingly insistent over the winter break, he was left disappointed with the engines eventually sealed by Yamaha for the season as they failed to bring the step forward he wanted.
And, while he might not be able to do anything about it from now until the end of the season thanks to MotoGP’s engine rules, it’s a view that he nonetheless retains, once again expressing it at this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix even as Dovizioso suggested that the real ley to Yamaha’s woes lies not with power but with grip deficiencies.
“I’m not in agreement,” Quartararo said of Dovizioso’s comments, “because if you ask every rider, they will tell you that, what they need to go faster, they will say grip – but the way to ride the Yamaha, and I have a lot of experience with it, is that to go faster you need power, not grip.
“It is clearly power and if you ask me 20 times I’ll always answer this.
“Austin [the last round], clearly we lost half a second between the two straights. If you take out that half a second from our laptime, we will fight for the victory. It was the same in Argentina.
“They need to be more aggressive, they need to make a bigger change, but it’s not about the rear grip, it’s about the power.
“In the past year I have learned a lot from the bike, and the rear grip is not the problem. We miss a lot of grip in the wet, this is for sure, but in the dry it’s not so bad and if you check our riding style it’s more like a Moto3 style. Much more round.
“When you see the other bikes, they are much more in a V [trajectory] in the turns, and this is the biggest difference between all the other bikes and our bike.”
A big revamp is something that Yamaha has traditionally been reluctant to pursue, however, with the factory instead choosing to make incremental modifications rather than risking losing out on the high corner speed and good turning ability that has characterized the M1 for the entirety of the modern era of the sport.
And while Quartararo might be insistent about his desire for more top speed, Dovizioso is equally adamant that his experience not just with Yamaha (the only MotoGP machine Quartararo has ridden) but also with Ducati and Honda means that he better understands the way to make not just himself but all Yamaha’s riders be faster.
“This is normal,” countered Dovizioso to Quartararo’s comments. “Fabio is the only rider who is able to be fast with Yamaha with no grip on the rear.
“This is, in my opinion, because of his riding style, because he has never tried another bike and he has got used to using the potential of the bike. The bike has a great potential for entry, turning and the middle of the corner because the front of the bike is so good.
“If you give him a bit more power, he can just be a bit faster in the straight. I agree with him, but his way to ride is a bit unique, and that’s why I’m pushing a lot for grip.
“Ninety percent of the riders need more grip – and this is the strange thing of the bike. How much we lose on grip is huge, and I can say that because I am coming from a different bike. Fabio isn’t saying wrong things, he just doesn’t know about the grip [others have]. If I’m him, I would [also] like more power because he can be a bit faster.”
That creates something of a dilemma for the factory, however, which could very easily find itself in a situation reminiscent of the one Honda was in with Marc Marquez and its other riders until recently.
Only Marquez was able to consistently ride the rear grip-deficient RC213V to race wins – something that gave Honda its worst year in the MotoGP era in 2020 after the Spaniard was ruled out of the entire season thanks to injury.
Should Yamaha simply do what Quartararo has (to date unsuccessfully) been demanding and bring a faster bike for 2023, it’s got the potential to move even further away from what could be the way back to championship-winning ways – but could risk alienating the reigning world champion in the process, as he continues to look at his future career options.
That means that MotoGP’s upcoming series of official tests, kicking off on the Monday following next weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix and continuing after the Catalan race in late May, could well be the crunch time for not just Yamaha’s title defense but its future relationship with Quartararo, as promised new parts finally arrive.
Yamaha’s riders have already suggested that updated frames and swinging arms will be in the plan – all items that could well help out with what Dovizioso is adamant is missing.
If Yamaha can find something there (using parts that it’s free to race in the remainder of the 2022 season instead of waiting until next year) it might not just turn around what has so far been a relatively lackluster title defense but could ensure that Quartararo is more willing to put pen to paper and extend his time in Yamaha blue.