The next few races will be held for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP and personally for Fabio Quartararo with maximum discomfort: starting with the Red Bull Ring, he enters enemy territory, where the closest competitors will rule. What is Yamaha’s plan, and how will the team save the position of the World Championship leader?
So, the 13th of the 20 stages of the MotoGP World Championship – the Austrian Grand Prix – starts in Spielberg. For Yamaha, this is a very inconvenient track, since it has until now been a configuration with a number of straight lines connected by sharp turns. On the straight Yamaha consistently loses Ducati, Aprilia, Suzuki, Honda, and KTM from 10 to 15 km / h, which deprives Quarararo of freedom of action. He has to take a lot of risks just to hold his position and restrain the attacks of rivals. In 2021, in Porto, this situation ended for Fabio with a fall in a narrow turn – he had to slow down later and later in order to defend himself from Ducati attacks.
There are two points that can smooth out the situation of the Quarararo a little: a new chicane that cuts the speed arc in half after the 1st turn, as well as the possibility of rain on Sunday. The chicane can radically reduce the pace of the peloton on the lap. Now Red Bull Ring is the leader in average speed: more than 187 km/h! But the chicane can return the palm of the championship on this indicator to the Phillip Island Circuit. However, we won’t know for sure until Friday how much the lap time will change, and whether this additional Yamaha loop will help in the fight against rivals.
Besides Ducati, KTM presents a serious problem: Miguel Olivera and Brad Binder won two Grand Prix in Austria, and in different conditions. If KTM pilots join the fight for the podium, as in 2021, it will complicate the task for Quartararo. After all, KTM, like Ducati and Aprilia, also has a V4 engine that provides maximum torque over the entire range, and not just at peak rpm.
Quartararo and his team are switching to energy-saving mode and will look for strategic ways to solve problems with a lack of speed on the straights. As in 2021, the team will have to stick to the following plan: if there is no way to win the race, it must be completed in the highest possible position, but the main thing is to finish in points.
Ducati is guaranteed to win the Manufacturers’ Cup in 2022. But the goal of Borgo Panigale is the “Triple Crown” – it is also a team and personal title. Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP has already lost team one because in it the battle is going on between the factory teams Aprilia and Ducati. It remains only personal, where Quarararo is still leading with a solid advantage.
Fabio is 22 points ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Pecco Bagnaia is 49 points ahead. But in the last two races in Assen and Silverstone, Quarararo lost 42 points at once! That is, his advantage was halved in a matter of days. And a number of the next races will have a similar property – the positive balance will be reduced…
If Quarararo had not fallen in Assen, the points balance would have remained at the same level as before the holidays, and he could have felt calm. But the balance is broken.
From the experience of 2021, we know that Bagnaia is able to win at least four of the remaining 8 races. Thus, he can reduce the gap by 20-36 points in 4-5 races and get close to Quarararo in the final stretch, in Malaysia, Australia and Valencia. Potentially, Pecco can take away 5-9 points from Fabio over the weekend, starting with the Austrian Grand Prix and all the way to Valencia. To return to the fight for the title, Bagnaia needs to win all the remaining races if Fabio is consistently 2-3.
The second scenario: Fabio may make a mistake and finish another race at a run, then Bagnaia will immediately cut the gap by half again – and will be in direct contact with Yamaha. On the other hand, any gathering of the Bagnaia immediately puts an end to the pursuit of a Big Prize. So Francesco is also under serious pressure… and it doesn’t make his task any easier!
Fabio, in order to maintain his position until the end of the season, cannot afford to fall or be in a position below the TOP 5. In the last few years, it was difficult for Quarararo at the Red Bull Ring, he did not fight for victory, hoping to be at least on the podium. In 2019 and 2021, he managed to finish 3rd. Of all the evils of Spielberg, this is the least for Yamaha. But the race at Silverstone showed that after the holidays, all the Ducati and Aprilia drivers became more active at once.
Predicting how things will go for the Aprilia Racing teammates is more difficult. But if Vinales’ breakthrough in Assen and Silverstone is what we are thinking about, then Quarararo may lose his chances even for a podium in a number of upcoming races. After all, Aleix Espargaro remains the most stable MotoGP driver of 2022 – he has made only one mistake so far, but not as big as Quartararo in Assen. Vinales considers his main goal to help Aleix and Aprilia in the fight for the title in 2022-23. Team tactics, like Ducati’s in 2020-21, can start working. In any case, Vinales is once again becoming a dangerous opponent…
Fabio tries to think positively: “Silverstone disappointed me a lot, but I was able to use this negative energy to good use – having transformed it, I trained a lot in the gym, and now I feel focused on the upcoming weekend. Without a penalty, this Grand Prix should go over… in a normal way.”
“After Silverstone, our only goal is to do a better job. Spielberg is not our favorite track, but the podium remains an objective goal: I have already achieved this in 2019 and 2021. We need to keep the right attitude. We know that since 2016, Yamaha has only had three podiums at the Red Bull Ring. Furthermore, we need to fix this.”