Fabio Quartararo is the 2021 FIM MotoGP World Champion! After a dramatic decider at the Gran Premio Nolan del Made in Italy e dell’Emilia Romagna, the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider sliced from 15th on the grid to fourth as sole rival for the crown Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) crashed out from the lead. Quartararo is the first French premier class World Champion in history and the first Yamaha rider to lift the crown since 2015.
Quartararo was four years old when his father Étienne – a former French 125cc Champion – gave him a Yamaha PW50. It’s a familiar story for future MotoGP riders, and although Quartararo’s rise would prove stratospheric, there were definitely a few challenges and difficult seasons along the way.
After getting that first bike, he began riding at different mini circuits around his home Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region to master the basics before then going racing in Italy and Spain. And the success began early: the 50cc, 70cc and 80cc titles in the Catalan Championship and the pre-Moto3 title in the Mediterranean Championship showed promise, but once the young Frenchman arrived in the FIM CEV Repsol, or the Spanish Moto3 Championship as it was then, that promise exploded into something a lot bigger.
Winning the series that has now become the FIM Moto3 Junior World Championship is one of the biggest achievements for a young rider. So becoming the youngest to do it in 2013 and then defending the crown the year after even more so. That allowed Quartararo the opportunity to move into Moto3 earlier than previously allowed and when he did, remaining in Estrella Galicia 0,0 colours, the momentum for the young Frenchman rolled on.
Quartararo debuted in Moto3 with 7th in Qatar in 2015, and it took him only one more race to get on the podium as he took second in Texas. Two more top sixes followed, he was on pole at Jerez, and he was back on the podium at the TT Circuit Assen too. The whispers of “the new Marquez” grew into assured articles, ramping up the pressure on a rider who was already, despite the moniker from some corners, instead very much the first Quartararo.
Later that season however, the first key challenge of his Grand Prix career saw El Diablo break his ankle at Misano. That meant he missed most of the final races of the year, only returning at Valencia but not scoring. So he ended the year in 10th, making a solid impression but not displaying the domination expected after his searing path to the World Championship.
So, for 2016 there was a change as Quartararo moved to Leopard Racing alongside Joan Mir and Andrea Locatelli. However, the team fielded KTMs and that proved an extra challenge to adapt to as the Frenchman arrived from a rookie season contested on a Honda. And the points finishes kept coming, but only six top tens – and no podiums – saw the excitement of his early success give way to a tougher patch as ‘El Diablo’ looked to move forward.
At that point, under pressure to perform, a bigger change of direction was needed. Enter Éric Mahé, who came on board a Quartararo’s new manager, and a crucial decision that started to build the foundations of the future premier class crown: for 2017, Quartararo would move to Moto2, taking on a new challenge on a bigger bike to press the reset button.
It started well, with a seventh place finish on his intermediate class debut in Qatar – the same result that, in Moto3, had prefaced a first podium soon after. But this time around there was no rostrum around the corner and 2017 swiftly became his toughest season yet, culminating in the Pons team and Quartararo parting ways for 2018.
Enter another key figure in the rise of El Diablo: Luca Boscoscuro. El Diablo moved to the Speed Up team with Boscoscuro at the helm for 2018, and on Moto2 take two it actually started worse: a 20th in Qatar and 22nd in Argentina. But then it started to come together: a 15th at COTA, a 10th at Jerez, an 8th at Le Mans… 11th at Mugello interrupted the pattern, but it was another solid result as Quartararo started to get back in the groove.
At Catalunya, the stars aligned. Saturday saw the Frenchman take his first Moto2 pole and on Sunday, he unleashed the first truly dominant performance of his Grand Prix career, fastest lap included. No one had an answer for the number 20, and he took his first Grand Prix win by nearly two and a half seconds. Next time out at Assen, it was another podium too. The return to the rostrum and that first victory had seemed a long time coming, but the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
By the time Quartararo took that win, there appeared to be a split between those who’d been waiting for the success they saw as inevitable and those who’d written the Frenchman off. The new Petronas Yamaha SRT outfit, and Yamaha boss Lin Jarvis, were definitely not the latter and at Silverstone it became official: Quartararo would join MotoGP in 2019. So he finished the 2018 Moto2 season with a solid run of form and then left the intermediate class to saddle up in MotoGP… and the rest is history in the best possible way.
On the pace from the off, Quartararo’s stunning debut season silenced the doubters. Fast and consistently so, and somehow making it look easy, it wasn’t long until the number 20 was an established, expected presence at the front. Jerez saw him become the youngest polesitter in the premier class, and he took five more that season. He also came up against then seven-time World Champion Marc Marquez in some incredible last lap duels – not quite defeating the number 93, but making life impressively difficult. Seven podiums saw Quartararo end the year fifth overall, take Rookie of the Year and the overall top Independent Team rider title. Fabio Quartararo had arrived.
In 2020, it started with a dream double win at Jerez and the Yamaha rider seemed the man to beat. But after some twists and turns, it wasn’t until Barcelona that El Diablo got back on top. Some more struggles later, the crown was instead nabbed by Joan Mir at Valencia and Quartararo went into winter pushing to reset and reload, vowing to iron out the kinks and fight for the crown again.
That he did, and he did it in Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP colours as he took on a new chapter with the factory Yamaha outfit. Off the podium in Qatar to start the season, he hit back in Doha to take his first victory of the year. At Portimão he was in a league of his own for another win, but then a speed bump appeared at Jerez as the Frenchman suffered with serious arm pump, taking only a handful of points. Surgery ahead of his home Grand Prix wasn’t the best run up to the event, but still El Diablo took a podium at Le Mans and then another win at Mugello.
Barcelona saw a little drama unzipped, but a solid 10 points and another rostrum in Germany prefaced victory at Assen, sending the number 20 flying high into the summer break. He was a man on a mission, although next up was Styria – Ducati and KTM territory. But still, one podium and then a salvage job of seventh in a crazy Austrian GP later, Quartararo remained firmly holding the cards as the paddock returned to Silverstone.
It had been a while since MotoGP had raced the British behemoth and not the best event for Quartararo when they did, but 2021 was a different story: one of domination. Another 25 points in the bag saw him increase his lead again, and after a tougher Aragon, the Frenchman took a little more risk to push key rival Bagnaia at Misano but ultimately settled for second as crunch time approached. Second in Texas, behind Marquez but ahead of Bagnaia, turned crunch time into match point at the Emilia-Romagna GP.
With a 52-point advantage, starting 15th and seeing Bagnaia on pole wasn’t ideal, but El Diablo kept calm and carried on, slicing back through the pack to fourth.
It wouldn’t have been enough had Bagnaia not crashed, but the Ducati rider’s final stand was ultimately just over the limit – guaranteeing Quartararo the crown with two races spare.
With five victories, ten podiums and a sublime season of speed, Fabio Quartararo is the history-making 2021 MotoGP World Champion!
Fabio Quartararo – The Stats
Quartararo is the sixth-youngest rider to clinch a premier class world title, aged 22 years and 187 days old, behind John Surtees (22 years and 182 days old) and ahead of Valentino Rossi (22 years and 240 days old).
In the MotoGP era, Quartararo is the third-youngest Champion behind Marc Marquez (20 years and 266 days old) and Casey Stoner (21 years and 342 days old).
In addition, Quartararo became the youngest Yamaha rider to clinch the premier class world title, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, who was 23 years and 159 days old when he took the title in Malaysia back in 2010.
Quartararo became the first French rider to clinch a premier class world title and the seventh overall in GP racing along with Johann Zarco (two titles), Mike Di Meglio (1), Arnaud Vincent (1), Olivier Jacque (1), Christian Sarron (1) and Jean-Louis Tournadre (1). Thanks to Quartararo, France became the seventh different nation to win a premier class Championship.
Quartararo became the first European rider to clinch the premier class world title without having previously taken a title in one of the smaller GP classes since Franco Uncini in 1982. Overall, Quartararo is the 17th rider to do so along with Les Graham (first Championship season in 1949), Umberto Masetti, Libero Liberati, Barry Sheene, Kenny Roberts, Marco Lucchinelli, Franco Uncini, Freddie Spencer, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Gardner, Wayne Rainey, Kevin Schwantz, Mick Doohan, Kenny Roberts Jr., Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner.
In the MotoGP era, Quartararo is the third rider to clinch the title without having previously taken a title in one of the smaller classes along with Nicky Hayden and Casey Stoner.
By taking the crown, Quartararo brought to an end a sequence of nine premier class titles from Spanish riders: six with Marc Marquez, two with Jorge Lorenzo and one with Joan Mir (the longest sequence for a country in the class).
Quartararo became the first Yamaha rider to take the premier class crown since Jorge Lorenzo in 2015 and the seventh overall along with Giacomo Agostini (one premier class title), Kenny Roberts (3), Eddie Lawson (3), Wayne Rainey (3), Valentino Rossi (4) and Jorge Lorenzo (3). This is the 18th title for a Yamaha rider in the premier class.
Quartararo is tied in sixth place with Max Biaggi and Maverick Viñales on the list of Yamaha riders with most premier class wins, just behind Kenny Roberts (22 wins). Valentino Rossi leads the way with 56 premier class wins with Yamaha.
With 20 premier class podiums so far, Quartararo is the French rider with most podiums in the class ahead of Christian Sarron (18 podiums).
With eight premier class wins so far, since his maiden premier class wins at the 2020 Spanish GP, Quartararo has almost tripled the number of French victories before him (one for Régis Laconi, plus Christian Sarron and Pierre Monneret).
This season Quartararo has stood on the MotoGP podium more than any other rider (10 times), including five wins. This is this first time that a Yamaha rider has taken five (or more) premier class wins since Jorge Lorenzo in 2015 (seven). The last Yamaha riders with more than 10 podiums in a single season were Valentino Rossi (15 podiums) and Jorge Lorenzo (12) in 2015.
For the seventh successive year, the rider who clinched the premier class world title failed to win the opening race of the season. The last to do so was Marc Marquez in 2014.
The first ever French premier class World Champion!
“I already don’t have my normal voice just a few hours after, I’ve cried a lot an screamed a lot! It feels amazing. When I crossed the finish line I thought about all the tough moments I had, and to be World Champion in MotoGP is something I never expected when I was in bad situations only a few years ago. So right now I feel like I’m in a dream and I don’t realise what’s happening to me right now!
“Of course I had extra nerves, I never started further back than P11 in MotoGP, and I’m starting P15 in one of the most important races of my career! We chose the safe, let’s say, tyres but for us the hard would have been better and I think the podium was there with the hard. I didn’t have stability when I was with the group, I couldn’t overtake. But I’m really happy with my race, even if I hadn’t won the Championship it’s great to finish P4. Super happy about the race and of course with the Championship it’s something extra.
“Just before starting the race I was with Tom in the office and I was nervous, feeling stressed and he said, ‘just think about the last three races you had last year’. They were a total disaster and I just wanted to finish the Championship whatever the position was. And today I started the race that made me World Champion. I think everything that happened last year helped me a lot to win the title today. Thanks to the people for supporting me in these tough moments, I think I learned a lot during these years in MotoGP and still have a lot to learn to achieve more results like that.
“To be honest, last year we fought to have the factory bike but with Covid and everything, the 2019 bike was better. But with the 2021 bike I felt much better, the feeling with the front is what has made me win this year, I think. The feeling I had. We know the power is something we have to work on, but the feeling on the braking to overtake – not this race but in general – has been much higher than 2019 and 2020. Yamaha has worked a lot, we still have a lot to improve for next year because we know that power is something important, but right now with the bike I was feeling like on, I’m enjoying riding. Also today I had a lot of struggles with the front but I still enjoyed it a lot, and that was the most important thing of the day.”
“First of all, I want to congratulate Fabio whole-heartedly. We already knew he was an exceptional talent who understands how to get the best out of the YZR-M1 and shares Yamaha‘s ability to think and dream big – and now he has made his dream come true through hard work, passion, and exciting yet clean racing.
“We are thrilled that we have achieved this shared goal together. Grand Prix racing makes up a large part of Yamaha‘s heritage. Yamaha Motor Company was born from ’racing DNA‘, and this racing DNA is also present in our consumer products. Yamaha had a clear objective for this year: we strived to be back at the pinnacle of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing. With Fabio we‘ve secured five Grands Prix victories and ten podiums, and after a six-year period we have won the MotoGP World Championship again – a superb achievement. Moreover, to do it in such a competitive field is an achievement we can be proud of.
“On behalf of Yamaha, I would like to sincerely thank all our sponsors and partners, without whom none of this would have been possible. They have cheered on Yamaha through these last two difficult pandemic-affected MotoGP seasons, and this championship victory is therefore also very much theirs.
“The last two years have further underlined what a source of joy MotoGP and motorsports are in general to a vast audience. To many people the GPs were highlights during an otherwise dark period. I would therefore also like to take a moment to thank the fans around the world for their unwavering support, and also the Yamaha staff who this year again made significant sacrifices to adhere to Covid regulations – which meant often being away from home for weeks on end – and who unfailingly worked with 100% dedication towards the goal of becoming World Champion.
“Since its founding, Yamaha has always been striving to bring every Yamaha rider the feeling of ‘Kando’; a Japanese word for the simultaneous feelings of deep satisfaction and intense excitement that we experience when we encounter something of exceptional value. This championship win is truly one of those moments: it‘s a milestone that will bring joy to many, as Fabio‘s fan base, like Yamaha‘s, is growing.”
Lin Jarvis – Managing Director – Yamaha Motor Racing
“I‘m extremely happy to congratulate Fabio on securing the Championship Title already in Misano. We asked Fabio to join the Factory team in 2021 because we knew full-well the extent of his talent. However, he managed not only to meet our expectations but even exceeded them.
“Fabio had obviously always dreamt of becoming a Factory rider and was very excited about what the future would hold, but the change of garage required some adjustment. He had to get used to a new team whilst simultaneously handle the added media pressure of being a Factory Team rider. Fabio had no trouble gelling with the team and finding speed on the Factory YZR-M1, and soon he secured his first two wins in Doha and Portimao. Right then we knew this year could be something special, but disaster struck in Jerez. Fabio had to cope with arm pump problems and a surgery quite early on in the season, a crucial time for a serious championship contender. This could have been a severe mental blow, but yet again this didn‘t faze him. He underwent it heroically and managed to show up at the very next GP ready to fight for the podium again.
“His mental fortitude really impressed us, and it resulted in him finishing no lower than eighth on ’bad‘ race weekends, except for when he had arm pump in Jerez, and even then he took 13th. He didn’t finish outside the points once so far this season.
“These statistics speak for themselves. They show that Fabio doesn’t leave a stone unturned yet manages to not let the pressure of a possible championship title get to him. He fights and beats the opposition fairly, purely on talent and race craft. And last but not least, he walks the tight line between relentless dedication to winning and improving while also having fun on the bike, a quality that our team has witnessed before with Yamaha‘s most successful premier class rider Valentino Rossi.
“This Rider Title is special because it has been achieved through great synergy between Fabio, the team, and Yamaha. I would like to thank and congratulate the members of the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team working directly with Fabio as well as the engineers of Yamaha‘s Motorsports Development Division in Japan and Yamaha Motor Racing‘s European based staff. All of Fabio‘s great achievements are a testament to their hard work. The big question that now remains is whether we can also win the Team and Constructor titles… With just two rounds to go we will surely give it our 100% for a thrilling climax to another incredibly competitive MotoGP season.”
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