Quartararo 'brakes' record with 'unbelievable' pole

'Braking went from his weak point to his strong point. This shows he’s a great rider' - Franco Morbidelli on team-mate and record Spanish MotoGP pole starter Fabio Quartararo.
Quartararo 'brakes' record with 'unbelievable' pole

The youngest ever rider to take a MotoGP pole position, the first ever pole for the Petronas Yamaha team and a new all-time Jerez lap record.

All in all, it wasn't a bad day for Fabio Quartararo.

The least qualified, on paper, of the four MotoGP rookies and riding the lowest-spec M1 on the grid, Quartararo has gone from strength-to-strength since his debut last November.

Quartararo's lone mistake has been to stall on the sighting lap in Qatar, but he brushed the disappointment aside for escalating 16-8-7 finishes prior to his Spanish Grand Prix heroics.

The only riders to feature on pole during the 15-minute Jerez shootout were triple MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, reigning five-time champion Marc Marquez and ultimately Quartararo, who at 20 years and 14 days replaces Marquez as the youngest pole starter in the premier-class.

A dream day for the Sepang outfit was made complete when team-mate Franco Morbidelli levered into second place, 0.082s from Quartararo and 0.008 ahead of Marquez.

"The feeling is unbelievable of course," smiled Quartararo, who has been inside the top six throughout the weekend. "When I made the lap time there were two minutes remaining, and I knew that Marc went with three new tyres during qualifying. So I didn’t expect the pole position here.

"I think our race pace is good, so I hope to be able to fight for a great result. This pole and Franky's second position are very special for the team. We are a new team in the class and it is incredible to achieve a one-two at only the fourth round of the year.

"I also want to thank them because last year [in Moto2] was a tough year in the beginning and they believed in me for MotoGP. So the feeling is incredible for them and for me."

Morbidelli, who endured a tough debut MotoGP season on a Marc VDS Honda before joining Petronas and Yamaha, added:

"It's a great day for us. We were both super fast. Fabio was able to be fast since the very beginning of the weekend, while I had to chase a little bit. But finally in qualifying we managed to get closer and closer.

"I’m just happy. The team deserves these kinds of results because they work very well. The team is made by great people. I’m speaking for both of us, but we feel great inside the team. We feel that there is a lot of passion and a lot of energy around us. This is the demonstration."

Quartararo has consistently brushed aside questions over his bike specification, understood to include a lower RPM limit due to fewer engine changes than the A-spec M1s, preferring to concentrate on his own shortcomings.

"I still have margin [to improve] my riding style. Today I think we are really, really close but I’m not thinking about the bike at the moment," he said.

The #20's style proved well suited to MotoGP in every area except one.

"The problem was the braking," he explained. "That was our weak point, but step-by-step with the team we worked on my riding style.

"In the Malaysia [test] we struggled a lot, but in Qatar from the first day we could brake late, with big confidence. It was like a natural progression with my riding style."

Among those impressed by how quickly Quartararo turned braking into a strength was Morbidelli, who hailed the one-time grand prix winner as a 'great rider'.

"I look at Fabio’s data because he’s super fast, so I need to look at it," said Morbidelli, a former Moto2 world champion in his second MotoGP season.

"The thing that impressed me was that it’s true that his weak point was braking, but he managed to get it right quite soon and he managed to step it up quite soon.

"The braking went from his weak point to his strong point. This shows that he’s a great rider. I like to work with him. To have a great rider as a team-mate helps you because it helps to step up the level of the team."

While the satellite Yamahas flourished, factory stars Maverick Vinales and Valentino Rossi will start fifth and 13th.

Quartararo admitted there was no obvious answer as to why the official team was behind them, a situation also seen in previous years at Jerez when countryman Johann Zarco was on a satellite Yamaha.

"I don’t know, maybe the riders feel better on this track. I have no answer to this question," said Quartararo.

Morbidelli, who took the Petronas team's best result to date with fifth last time in Austin, added: "All Yamahas were fast today because anyway Vale is four tenths slower than us. We are talking about a very small difference. Maverick as well was fast and we were behind him, so we had his tow."

The main worry for the Yamahas is that hotter weather forecast for the race will hurt them more than the others. 

"Today was quite cold and overcast, so the weather was not I think what we will face tomorrow," Morbidelli confirmed. "So this is a bit of a question mark on us. We will have to see what the weather is like tomorrow and we will have to react."

Quartararo is currently tenth in the world championship, with almost twice the points of closest rookie rival Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Ducati).