Rossi on Quartararo: I thought he’d be strong but nobody expected this

Valentino Rossi lavishes praise on rookie Fabio Quartararo after the Frenchman notches up another pole position in the Thailand MotoGP

Fabio Quartararo, Valentino Rossi - Yamaha

Valentino Rossi has lavished praise on Fabio Quartararo after the rookie sensation notched up his fourth MotoGP World Championship pole position in qualifying for Thailand MotoGP in Buriram.

Proving rapid again over a single lap, even a late crash couldn’t stop Quartararo from sealing a remarkable pole position over Maverick Vinales and Marc Marquez, a result that marks his eighth front row start in 15 attempts.

Naturally, his performances are not going unnoticed, with factory Yamaha rider Rossi admitting the Frenchman’s superb form this season on the satellite Petronas SRT have caught everyone by surprise.

“Quartararo's very impressive this season,” Rossi – who qualified ninth after his own crash - told reports, including our sister publication “I expected he would be strong - because Quartararo was already fantastic when he was 15. He did something special, but sincerely I don’t expect like this.”

"I think nobody expected it. He is very fast, strong, doesn’t make mistakes and I think that he can be very, very strong in the future.

"He rides the Yamaha very well because he's very smooth and I think he's very strong in braking because he is able to stop the bike very well."

Is Yamaha lining up Fabio Quartararo to replace Rossi for 2021?

In a word, yes… but it’s unlikely to be the one making the final decision.

Impressive though Quartararo has been and is destined to become, the sheer popularity, experience and – more boringly – commercial appeal of Rossi probably outweighs the benefits of placing Quartararo on into the full factory Monster Yamaha outfit.

As such, if Rossi does opt to hang up his helmet at the end of 2020, Quartararo is hot favourite to take his seat. But Yamaha is unlikely to make the decision for him by axing him itself.

Indeed, Yamaha ultimately has time on its side when to comes to Quartararo.

While Rossi is certainly in the twilight of his career, Quartararo’s has barely begun, not least because he didn’t take the classic ‘steady steady’ route of being taken under a manufacturer’s wing prior to his promotion, such as Pecco Bagnaia and Takaaki Nakagami.

As such Yamaha doesn’t need to necessarily move him away from Petronas SRT, where he enjoys full favour in a well-funded set-up. Even so, he is almost certainly set to be upgraded to a full Yamaha contract – unlike his current deal which belongs to Petronas SRT – and he will get an A spec M1 in 2020 too.

Yamaha might feel more compelled to replace Maverick Vinales should Rossi opt to continue beyond his deal to the end of 2020 but while the Spaniard hasn’t quite sparkled in the way Yamaha may have hoped – or expected – he has largely been the match for Quartararo much of the year and been the more consistent of the two, though experience may have more to do with negligible margin. 

Much will depend on the 2020 Yamaha M1, which is being developed more towards Rossi and Vinales’ requests for greater top speed, where it is clearly lacking versus Honda and especially Ducati.

Even so, the manufacturer has been reluctant to upset what is arguably a superior handling machine, the very characteristic that Quartararo is utilising to the maximum over a single lap.

Then again, you don’t get points for qualifying… and Quartararo hasn’t won a race. Yet.