Quartararo fastest lap after grid stall nightmare

'It was a small mistake that had a big consequence' - Fabio Quartararo's first rookie error costs him dearly on Qatar MotoGP debut.
Quartararo fastest lap after grid stall nightmare

After a stunning pre-season and then fifth in Qatar qualifying, it was particularly cruel that rookie Fabio Quartararo's first notable error as a MotoGP rider came as he left the grid for the season-opening grand prix.

The devastated Petronas Yamaha Sepang rider stalled his M1 as he began the warm-up lap and was forced to start from the end of pit lane, in a distant last.

But the French teenager underlined what might have been by setting the fastest lap of the race as he fought through the field from 23rd to 16th place.

"Everything went really well up until the race!" said Petronas Yamaha team manager Wilco Zeelenberg. "Fabio stalled the bike on the grid and had to start from pit lane. Unfortunately, it was a small mistake that had a big consequence.

"However, he didn’t throw in the towel and he put together a strong pace in the race, making it up to 16th."

Quartararo lost around ten seconds on the opening lap and went on to finish 15.9s from race winner Andrea Dovizioso, suggesting he would have been a close match for top rookie Joan Mir in eighth (+5.9s).

"I made a mistake before the start, which was a shame, but it is better to make mistakes at the start of the season rather than in the middle," Quartararo said.

"The first lap was very difficult because the tyres were still cold [without the warm-up lap] so I had to really concentrate under braking, I stayed calm and was very careful until the tyres got up to temperature before I increased my rhythm and pushed.

"I struggled a little towards the end of the race but I am happy with the job we have done here during the weekend and also at the test.

"It's not the result wanted but we got a lot of experience from a very different kind of race.

"The biggest thing I learned from my first grand prix is that it is much harder to overtake in this category than it is in Moto2 and Moto3.

"We'll leave the negatives here and take only the positives home. I'm happy about the work we did during the race weekend, we showed some speed, but we need to keep focussed and learn in all the other races.

"I want to thank the team for all their support during my first grand prix in this category. Now I can’t wait for the next one."

Team-mate Franco Morbidelli dropped from eighth to 13th on the opening lap, returning to where he had started by the middle stages, only to struggle with the soft rear tyre and fade to eleventh.

"I would split my race tonight into two parts. The first half was good despite a bad start, because I was able to recover positions easily, run with the front group and manage the tyres.

"Unfortunately, we made a bad choice with the rear tyre and went for the soft option when the majority of riders went for the medium. I had to make the tyre last for as long as I could, but from around the halfway stage I started to struggle to stay with the group.

"It is a shame because we had the pace to finish higher up and we worked really well, being reasonably strong throughout the weekend, so we need to focus on the positives and keep this dynamic going in Argentina."