This weekend’s Emilia Romagna MotoGP will see Fabio Quartararo come up to his first ‘match point’ to win the 2021 MotoGP World Championship, but while the man himself sharpens his focus for that serve, movements are already going on behind the scenes to secure his signature for 2023 and beyond.
The Frenchman has been a pleasant revelation for Yamaha since he was plucked from Moto2’s mid-field to become Petronas SRT’s surprise rookie signing for its first MotoGP season as a Yamaha satellite entry.
Seven podiums in that season led to three wins in 2020, with Yamaha signing Quartararo to replace Valentino Rossi from 2021. They are large shoes he has comfortably slid into with five wins setting him on course for what would make him the first Frenchman to clinch a premier class title.
While Quartararo’s immediate plans would see him defending his title with Yamaha again, from 2023 onwards he remains a free agent with ‘2.5 teams’ having made a pitch to lure him from the Iwata firm’s grip.
“Fabio will go where it is best for him,” Quartararo’s manager Eric Mahe told AutoHebdo. “At the moment everything is open as far as 2023 is concerned.
“Fabio is of course happy with his performance, but you have to analyze it in detail, because this performance is more on Fabio’s side than on his package.
“The trend is in the direction of signing a year or a year and a half in advance.
“We were contacted by 2.5 teams: Two approached us correctly, another casually … We will weigh that up in due time. Fabio is young, he still has his whole future ahead of him.”
Which MotoGP teams will be courting Fabio Quartararo?
We can only speculate which ‘two and a half teams’ have Quartararo in their sights, though in reality all five manufacturers would happily draw up a contract and pop it round to his motorhome if they knew he was definitely looking.
Of them, Ducati is surely to have been the most proactive having made a big play for Quartararo while he was at Petronas SRT, though he was one of several riders – Maverick Vinales, Alex Rins, Joan Mir, even Marc Marquez – it had on speed dial at the time.
Honda might have also had a close look at Quartararo, though it would involve him coming alongside Marc Marquez for 2023 and 2024, even if he would make the ideal replacement for the Spaniard should the six-time MotoGP champion decide – as many think he will – to accept a new challenge from 2025.
Without a young rider program and Alex Rins falling – literally a lot this year – out of favour, Suzuki is likely to be looking around right now. It might present an interesting option, not least because the sweet handling of the GSX-RR is perhaps closest to the Yamaha M1 in set-up, while it does the one thing Quartararo occasionally struggles with in that it preserves its tires well.
KTM can’t be discounted either, though the rise of Brad Binder, Miguel Oliveira plus its embarrassment of riches on the junior front means we would hazard a guess it was the ‘half’ approach. As for Aprilia, it would seem unlikely given its lower salary options.
Would Fabio Quartararo leave Yamaha?
It’s reasonable to assume Yamaha is already in negotiations to extend Quartararo’s contract. The firm has a tendency to get its riders re-signed earlier than most (his 2021 deal was announced in January 2020), while the firm will know the vultures are circling already.
With Quartararo poised to land Yamaha’s first MotoGP title since 2015 amid an otherwise dismal year for its other M1 riders, the Frenchman has an excellent position when it comes to negotiating and it’s hard to believe Yamaha would be able and willing to play hard ball.
Time is on Quartararo’s side so another two year contract for 2024 and 2025 at Yamaha seems very very likely.