Could MotoGP champ Fabio Quartararo leave Yamaha… and which team could he join?

Fabio Quartararo may be the new 'Golden Boy' at Yamaha but could question marks over development send the Frenchman into his rivals' arms for 2023 MotoGP?

Fabio Quartararo - Yamaha MotoGP Factory


The dust has only just settled on his 2021 MotoGP World Championship title success but for Fabio Quartararo and his peers the off-season isn’t ‘just’ about kicking off the boots and enjoying some down time, it’s also the time for managers to earn their 15 per cent with contract negotiations.

The Frenchman is signed and sealed with Yamaha for 2022, but  remains a free agent for 2023 and beyond… and ‘free agent’ equals ‘fair game’ for rival teams that might be seeking a major coup in luring him away from the Iwata squad.

Yamaha moved quickly when it realised what a talent it had on its hands in Quartararo following his standout 2019 rookie campaign, announcing in January 2020 that he would join the factory set-up for 2021 and 2022.

Landing the Riders’ Championship in only his third season of MotoGP competition - and first in factory blue - Yamaha will certainly be eager to pin its rider down as quickly as possible… but could he be lured away?

Fabio Quartararo - Yamaha MotoGP Factory

Will Fabio Quartararo leave Yamaha MotoGP?

Glance over Quartararo’s Yamaha-equipped surge to the summit of MotoGP’s hierarchy, you’d be forgiven for wondering why he’d want to leave.

Well, this is true to an extent and not just because he won a world title with the manufacturer. Quartararo’s technical style of riding - pin-point accuracy in getting the apex just right - makes him almost an extension of the Yamaha M1, which has always prioritised handling over power.

It is a style that Quartararo taps into with ease, particularly over a single lap or in clear air, as demonstrated by most of his wins being achieved with some margin to rivals behind.

However, if Quartararo doesn’t strike that exemplary lap, then he finds himself in a more floundering position. Indeed, the Yamaha M1’s evident compromise on top speed became more pronounced as the 2021 season wore on, not least because Ducati - for so often regarded as the antithesis of the Yamaha - proved with the GP21 you can make a fast bike brake and handle well.

Quartararo may be quickest in corners but that’s not much use when there is another bike parked on the apex in front of you.

It is for this reason that Quartararo has stated he won’t be signing on any dotted lines until the first tests of 2022 when he will get his hands on the latest-spec machine. He has attempted to leverage his new found talisman status at Yamaha to urge it to deliver a faster M1, warning the Japanese firm that it is slipping back in the development race.

Could he call their bluff if it doesn’t deliver on his demands? Well, it’s hard to see another bike on the grid suiting Quartararo’s style as readily as the M1… but by airing his frustrations publicly, it could be perceived as an early warning signal that he will be more open to hearing out alternative offers.

And while the Yamaha does suit him well, what’s to say another manufacturer won’t look to adapt its bike to suit the Frenchman? The ball is in your court, Yamaha…

Start of the 2021 Styrian MotoGP

Fabio Quartararo’s possible 2023 MotoGP options

Ducati

While there is plenty of opportunity at Ducati given it will swell to supplying eight bikes in 2022, there is already fierce competition for Pecco Bagnaia and Jack Miller’s factory seats, with Jorge Martin, Johann Zarco and Enea Bastianini alone waiting in the wings.

Then again, Quartararo is exactly the rider Ducati would like to poach from Yamaha and it has the bike that Quartararo wants Yamaha to study carefully when designing the 2022 M1.

A potential marriage made in heaven? Well, it’s likely Ducati will sound Quartararo out - like it has done with Marc Marquez on numerous occasions - and given the GP21’s performance advantage towards the end of the year, he will likely listen. 

Money won’t be a problem, but while Quartararo may yearn to experience the top speed of the Desmosedici, on paper it won’t suit his riding style. Still, if the Yamaha is being left behind on the straight when testing begins, don’t rule this out...

Honda

You’d think a multiple title-winning manufacturer would be the number one choice for riders… but Honda is perhaps the hardest sell to most right now. 

Firstly, Quartararo is unlikely to be enthused about the notion of joining a team that largely revolves around Marc Marquez, while he would go into any other team as its nominated #1 rider.

Secondly, two troublesome years trying to fill the void left by lead developer Dani Pedrosa and an injured Marquez exposed the Honda RC213V for the tricky and temperamental bike it is. Maybe when Marquez leaves Honda, but not before.

Joan Mir - Suzuki Ecstar GSX-RR

Suzuki

While Ducati might be the most logical choice in terms of outright competitiveness, Suzuki might well be Quartararo’s most sensible option. A fairly lacklustre 2021 campaign aside, the Suzuki GSX-RR mirrors the Yamaha M1 with its slightly compromised set up that can have the riders playing catch up in races.

However, it proved the most consistent and rounded package en route to the title in 2020, with only its conservative approach on development over the winter to blame for it being swamped by rivals this year.

The GSX-RR is sweet handling, competitively (if not blisteringly) quick in a straight line and kind to tyres, while Quartararo’s single lap prowess could work wonders for its qualifying fortunes. 

Moreover, Suzuki is pliable and flexible when it comes to adapting its riders’ needs, something Quartararo is clearly craving. If Suzuki comes into winter testing fighting like it did in 2020, expect Quartararo to keep a keen eye on it...  

KTM

An interesting prospect but perhaps too much of a leap of faith for Quartararo as early as 2023. The Austrian manufacturer certainly has the funds and ambition to approach the Frenchman and the RC16 is clearly a quick bike on its day.

However, the team’s relative novice status means it noticeably struggles to claw its way out of development missteps, while it probably has enough talent on its books not to get into a bidding war, even for a World Champion.

Aprilia

Aprilia would need to impress greatly in the opening few rounds of the 2022 MotoGP season - if Quartararo hasn’t already signed - to make Quartararo take notice… and it would probably demand a greater investment from Piaggio than it is probably willing to offer.

Still, if Quartararo does get frustrated mid-season and over-rev his engine into submission then who knows….