MotoGP: Fabio Quartararo, from P1 to P8
After the two races at Jerez, Fabio Quartararo looked like a clear champion, what happened?
Following his incredibly impressive rookie MotoGP season which saw him take 7 x podiums over the course of the season, even battling it out with titan Marc Marquez for victories, finishing in an incredibly impressive P5 overall by the end of the season, earning himself the ‘rookie of the year’ title in style.
So, when he came out in the 2020 season and won the first two races in dominating fashion, winning Race 1 by a huge 4.603 seconds then Race 2 by 4.495 seconds, everyone sat back after watching Marc Marquez’s domination since 2013 and thought “here we go again,” yet after these two races, the 21-year-old Frenchman crumbled in front of our eyes.
As everyone knows, winning a championship requires consistency, as soon as you drop the ball, even for one race, every rider behind you in the championship will pounce on the gap you have left and if you’re not careful, you’ll see yourself tumbling down the standings, that’s exactly what Quartararo did.
Following his double race win, he would not step back on the podium until round 8 which would be his third and last podium of the season, you see, he had his fair share of bad luck, but also could not handle the pressure of a championship fight, he had the weight of MotoGP’s shoulders on his back and it was too much for him.
Quartararo crashed in his last lap of qualifying in Brno, pushing his hardest to get pole position, all or nothing
Between his wins in Jerez then Catalunya in round 8, he finished 4/5 of the races out of the top 5 with a P4 in Misano 2 to aid his title fight, however, a DNF in the Misano 1 race meant he lost the championship lead for the first time to Andrea Dovizioso.
His win at Catalunya was a lifesaver for the Frenchman, a glimmer of hope, he could still win this title despite his struggles, taking back the championship lead from the hands of Andrea Dovizioso who was knocked off in the first corner.
Quartararo’s luck and the pressure once again got to him in the next race, a wet race at Le Mans, people across France were hoping and begging for the Frenchman to win on home soil but it wasn’t to be, the weekend was marred with awful conditions all weekend which saw many riders struggle to work out a good set up meaning most of the riders went into the race completely blind and Fabio, with no MotoGP class race experience in the wet, struggled. Even Joan Mir who was taking consistent podiums at this point finished in P11.
His luck would take another downturn at Aragon, his front tyre expanded to the point where his Yamaha M1 was impossible to ride, going wide into most corners and giving away positions like they were winning lottery tickets, he finished with 0 points, handing the championship lead to Joan Mir, Mir would go on to win the championship from this, never losing the title lead.
Quartararo did his best in the final 4 races to retake the title lead, however, Mir’s consistency was unparalleled, he was taking podiums in every race whilst Fabio was fighting for top 10’s taking a P8 in the weekend which followed in the Teruel GP.
Things really hit the fan at Valencia, in the first race, the European GP, Quartararo crashed out of the race on the first lap, eventually remounting and taking P14, this opened up a huge gap of 37 points to Mir with just 50 left on the table, he remained in second place overall but was tied with Alex Rins, teammate to Mir, this was a huge loss for the Frenchman, at this point, barring some sort of ‘Mir’acle, Joan Mir would be crowned the 2020 MotoGP champion.
Valencia 2 was the last chance he had to take the title back, the Frenchman knew he had to win the race to close down Mir, but instead, in lap 1, he out braked himself, narrowly missing Vinales and Mir, going wide into turn 2 and being demoted to last place, the dream was over, he had cracked, the pressure had gotten to him and he was making mistakes he normally wouldn’t be making. To make matters worse, he eventually crashed out the race trying to make up places, Mir was crowned the champion. Fabio was demoted to P5 overall.
The tougher side of racing, mentally defeated after Valencia 1
It couldn’t get any worse than this surely? P2 was still in reach, but he was also in danger of dropping all the way down to P10 if he wasn’t careful in Portimao, so of course, the 2020 Yamaha decided it wasn’t going to work for him didn’t it?
It didn’t work for any of the 3 Yamaha’s running the 2020 bike in Portimao, Franco Morbidelli sailed to a P3 finish, putting his name on the runners up medal overall, doing so on the 2019 bike whilst Quartararo finished the race in a low P14, dropping him further down the order to P8. At the start of the season, nobody expected this following from his 2019 form and 2020 entrance winning the opening two races.
It was an incredibly difficult year for everyone and Quartararo did an outstanding job given his problems with the bike, maintaining he will never give up, even after his worst races of the season, this mentality is what kept him pushing and you could see he was doing his best but the pressure got too much for him.
He has confirmed that during the winter he is going to spend time with a sports psychologist with the aim of managing pressure and stress which clearly took a toll on him this year. He replaces Valentino Rossi in the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team for 2021, a factory team means factory expectations, Yamaha will expect consistent race wins and a title fight, if he can learn to manage the pressure and stress, he will most definitely be a threat, plus at just 21 years old, he has more than enough time to take a title or five.
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