Fabio Quartararo ‘not confident’ as Yamaha go from MotoGP winners to also rans

A 'worried' Fabio Quartararo has his worst fears realised as defending MotoGP champion labours to a distant ninth in Qatar a year after he won for Yamaha

Fabio Quartararo - Yamaha Factory Racing

Fabio Quartararo admits he is ‘worried’ as his worst fears about Yamaha’s competitiveness relative to its rivals in the Qatar MotoGP opener appeared to come to fruition as he laboured to a distant ninth place at the Lusail International Circuit.

A year after Yamaha doubled up under floodlights with a win apiece for Maverick Vinales and Quartararo himself - one of five wins the latter would score en route to the title - the manufacturer was roundly out-performed by each of its five rivals.

It was a result Quartararo had feared after only just scraping through Q1 before placing himself 11th on the grid, a spot ahead of team-mate Franco Morbidelli.

However, while he made progress on the leaderboard in the race, Quartararo couldn’t make his good start pay as he slumped to a distant ninth, despite the likes of Pecco Bagnaia, Jorge Martin and Jack Miller up ahead failing to finish.

Indeed, such was the disparity in performance, Quartararo finished behind Johann Zarco, despite his countryman running as low as 19th at one stage.

It’s a result that is betrayed by the top speed charts, with Yamaha’s power disparity made clear in the final classification. While he credits the step forward made by his rivals over the winter, Quartararo cut a defeated - albeit vindicated - figure after the race.

“The others did an amazing job over the weekend. We won both races here last year, now we have finished below all the other manufacturers. Our power is not on a par with that of our rivals, I cannot be confident after synch a weekend in which I qualified on the fourth row after coming from Q1.

“I am not an engineer, my job is to be 100% and focus on every race and in every condition, but in any case, I am worried.”

Panic stations for MotoGP champs Yamaha?

There was a sense of inevitability about Yamaha’s very humbling start to the 2022 MotoGP season.

Quartararo, instead of touting his renewed title credentials throughout the pre-season, has instead been beating the same drum that he thinks Yamaha’s steadfast attitude not to up the engine-to-chassis ratio to improve power will leave him looking flaccid in Qatar.

Perhaps unsurprisingly - both as a result of Yamaha’s approach and its rider’s own downbeat attitude - those fears were realised in Qatar, so much so you’d be hard pressed to remember quite how it was a winner at the same venue a year ago.

On the one hand, the Lusail International Circuit will always punish those who can’t get away with the front group but it was a sure sign that a lot of pressure will rest on Quartararo and Morbidelli’s shoulders on Saturday if the Yamaha M1 doesn’t have the squirt to push through the pack.

In short, Yamaha hasn't suddenly developed a bad machine but on an evening where Honda, Suzuki, KTM and Aprilia all showed massive improvements, the M1 appears to have stood still… and if you’re standing still in MotoGP, you’re actually hurtling backwards.

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