Worrying Fabio Quartararo trend is threatening to cost him big in title fight

From a neutral’s point of view, Sunday’s Thai MotoGP could hardly have gone any better.

In horrendous and torrential conditions at the Buriram International Circuit, defending champion Fabio Quartararo, having been caught up in the early lap melee, found himself dropping down the order, eventually finishing a 17th place that earned him a grand total of zero points.

By contrast, Pecco Bagnaia was able to hold off the attentions of the likes of Johann Zarco to claim a third place finish, that means the Ducati is now just two points behind Quartararo at the top of the standings, with only three races remaining.

That of course means that fans are set for a fascinating and thrilling spectacle to end the season that the majority would surely have been hoping for.

By contrast, it is a scenario that Quartararo would undoubtedly have preferred to avoid, although it is something that looking at the Frenchman’s recent results, has been coming.

After ten races of this 20-race 2022 MotoGP season, Quartararo sat top of the Championship standings, with three races wins and three more podiums, giving him 172 points, a lead of 34 over the then second-place man Aleix Esparagaro.

In the seven races since then, however, the Yamaha rider has, for one reason or another, picked up just one more podium, and 43 points in total. In that same time, Bagnaia has taken 136 points – with four wins and two more podiums – to move to within those aforementioned two points of Quartararo.

Of course, Quartararo will point to certain incidents beyond his control, such as his first lap collision with Marc Marquez in Aragon, or the weather that contributed to his struggles in Thailand, as being things that have hindered him recently, that were simply impossible for him to avoid.

However, it is also worth noting, that there are other races where he has simply been unable to make things happen, and it is not the first time such a situation has developed.

Back in 2020, in what was just Quartararo’s second season riding in the Premier class, the Frenchman sat top of the Championship standings in the shortened 14-race season, eight points clear of second-placed Joan Mir after claiming his third win of the campaign in the Catalan GP, ​​with just six more races to go.

But in those final six races, Quartararo picked up just 19 points, and failed to even get close to the podium, as he slid down the standings to eventually finish eighth in the final championship.

In those same six races, Mir himself would earn 71 points, including a race win and two more podiums, to secure the world title for the Spaniard.

Indeed, while Quartararo did hang on to claim Championship glory in 2021, there was also something of a noticeable drop-off in results for the Yamaha man, in the second half of the year.

Over that 18-race season, four of his five wins, and 156 of his eventual 278 points tally, would come in the first half of the season.

That meant that the 34 point lead Quartararo had held over Johann Zarco at the midway stage of the campaign, had fallen to 26 points over eventual runner-up Bagnaia – who had trailed Quartararo by 47 points at the midway stage – by the time the season ended.

It seems, therefore, that be it due to the nature of the tracks, the pressure of leading the Championship at such a crucial stage, or some other reason altogether, getting over the line in a title battle is not something Quartararo finds easy to do .

The fact that the next two races come at tracks – Phillip Island in Australia and Sepang in Malaysia – that like the last two races – Motegi in Japan and Buriram in Thailand – were not on the calendar in the last two years for pandemic-related reasons , could also add an extra subplot into the mix.

But with his rivals positioned much more closely to pounce this time around, Quartararo simply must find a way to turn his recent form around if he wants to become a back-to-back World Champion.

Recent history however, suggests he may not find that the easiest thing to do.

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