How Fabio Quartararo went from underdog to Yamaha’s top dog

Things could have been very different has Dani Pedrosa landed the Petronas SRT Yamaha MotoGP ride over Fabio Quartararo in 2019...

Fabio Quartararo - Petronas SRT Yamaha

Fabio Quartararo has expressed his delight at securing a move into the Yamaha Factory team for the 2021 and 2022 MotoGP World Championship season, assuming the place of Valentino Rossi.

The Frenchman only made his MotoGP debut in 2019 with the satellite Petronas SRT Yamaha team but burst onto the scene with a series of scintillating performances, including seven podiums and six pole positions.

Concluding his rookie season fifth overall, Quartararo – who will remain with Petronas SRT in 2020 but on A-spec machinery this time – was known to be a primary target for a number of rival teams as Yamaha agonised over whether to promote him for 2021.

As such, Yamaha has moved early to decide on its 2021/2022 MotoGP line-up, first announcing Maverick Vinales before confirming Rossi will exit the Factory team to make way for Quartararo.

“I‘m delighted about what my management has achieved in the last few months together with YMC. It was not simple to establish, but now I have a clear plan for the next three years and I‘m really happy.

“I will work hard, like I did last year, and I‘m extremely motivated to achieve great performances.

Fabio Quartararo: From nowhere to everywhere…

This deal caps an incredible twelve months for the 20-year-old, who came into MotoGP as a relative unknown, only signed late in the day because Dani Pedrosa turned down the ride in favour of a KTM test rider role.

Indeed, while Quartararo was highly rated during his junior years, his form tailed off as he reached the grand prix ranks with just a single Moto2 win to his name ahead of his MotoGP debut. However, the youngster developed an affinity with the sweet handling – but underpowered – 2018/2019 hybrid Yamaha M1 to his credit and his confidence only grew as the year wore on.

By the end of the season, Quartararo was almost impossible to beat over a single lap be it in practice or qualifying, with only Marc Marquez topping more timed sessions in 2019.

While the limitations of his dated package told more come race day, Quartararo pushed Marquez hard at times in 2019, forcing last lap deciders at Misano and Buriram, in so doing assuring himself as the hottest new talent to step up to MotoGP.

Yamaha knew it couldn’t wait around for Rossi to make a decision or risk losing the burgeoning superstar it arguably lucked into in the first place.

Even diehard Rossi fans will appreciate this move as a handing of the baton to the next generation, one that grew up wanting to be just like the Italian. At the very least, it will be seen more favourably than if Rossi had been sidestepped for a more seasoned rival.

Indeed, while Rossi has belied his years on numerous occasions to maintain an exceptional level for almost two decades, he ultimately isn’t Yamaha’s long-term future no matter how he performs in 2020.

This doesn’t mean Rossi can’t bring a strong game to the table in 2020 and there is every chance he’ll continue into 2021, but by seeing the bigger picture, he may very well have done Yamaha the service of giving it a bright future in the long-feared but ever looming post-Rossi years.