Quartararo: 'I knew it was over…'

Disaster strikes for MotoGP rookie Fabio Quartararo while holding second place in the Spanish Grand Prix.
Quartararo: 'I knew it was over…'

MotoGP rookie Fabio Quartararo proved his debut pole position was no flash in the pan by settling into a confident second place behind Marc Marquez at mid-distance of Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.

But the Frenchman's podium dreams disappeared when a problem with the gear shifter forced the Petronas Yamaha rider to sit up on the back straight, on lap 14 of 25.

Helpless as the likes of team-mate Franco Morbidelli plus eventual rostrum finishers Alex Rins and Maverick Vinales blasted past, the devastated 20-year-old could only park his machine in the pits, where he was quickly consoled by the team.

"When I saw that I can't shift, I knew it was over," shrugged Quartararo matter-of-factly. "I was stuck in 3rd gear. So I came into pit lane. There was nothing else to do.

"The race had been really good. I felt so good on the bike. It was amazing to ride with the top riders.

"Yes, there was a small technical issue on the gear shifter, something really small that cost us a lot, but like in Qatar [where he stalled on the sighting lap] we'll leave all the negatives here and take the positives home."

Passed by Marquez and Morbidelli into turn one, Quartararo had shadowed his team-mate until a pass on lap 11, then edged clear of the Italian to keep Marquez in sight.

"All the race I saw Marquez just in front. That gives me good confidence. I didn't expect that. Also the pole of yesterday, I didn't expect.

"So I think we did an amazing job and it's not a coincidence that we were there in the race because we were near the top in all the free practices and I felt really good on the bike, and with all the crew and the team.

"It was not really hard to keep the pace, okay not easy, but I was riding well and then unfortunately I had a problem. At the end it’s an experience. I need to learn the bad things and the good things, and today we missed I think a top five."

A top five seems a conservative estimate.

Quartararo had been around two-seconds from race winner Marquez but the same distance ahead of Morbidelli, Rins and Vinales, who didn’t seem to be gaining on him at that stage.

"I think we could fight for the podium," he admitted. "The pace I had in the race was incredible because I found something riding with these top guys that made me two tenths faster on the pace than in practice.

"In the first laps I learnt many things," he said. "I was acting on the bike like I have more experience than only my fourth race. Doing some mapping changes, seeing that the tyre pressure was high so I managed to get it cooler. So we took a lot of experience.

"I think I would have tried to stay in second position rather than push really hard to try and catch Marquez, who was already too far. But [the gap to Marquez] was perfect to get a reference, like to not get the front tyre pressure too high and make good lap times. Also from behind, I think I had 1.5 seconds advantage so it's good that we can manage.

"Now I have all of that experience in my head."

Several hours earlier it had been a head full of emotions as Quartararo walked away from his stricken M1, the pain and disappointment of what might have been etched across his face as he was hugged by the team.

"Well of course I was really disappointed because we could challenge for a really good position," he said. "When you look at the pace I had, the weekend we did, I must be happy…

"Unfortunately no podiums, no top five, no points [today], but the experience we take is a lot."

And that experience will soon be put to use in front of his home fans at Le Mans on May 17-19.

"For sure it will be tough. A lot of fans, a lot of people. But I'm ready to go there because it's a track that it looks like the Yamaha will go well at and I can't wait also to test here tomorrow…"

Morbidelli slipped back to seventh place by the chequered flag.

Quartararo, best race result of ninth so far, continues to lead the Rookie of the Year standings despite his second non-score in the four rounds.