While doing their best to remain diplomatic, over the course of the Valencia weekends both made clear a mistake was made with the 2020 Factory-Spec bike and that the ‘2019’ A-spec used by Franco Morbidelli would have been better option over a full season.
It’s an especially bitter pill for Quartararo to swallow, since the young Frenchman fought to be upgraded to the Factory-Spec machine for his final season at Petronas ahead of joining the official Yamaha team in 2021.
But after seeing his title hopes officially end with another off-pace weekend and early fall – while Morbidelli took a third win of the year to move into second in the standings behind Suzuki’s newly crowned champion Joan Mir – Quartararo conceded the Factory-Spec was ‘not the correct choice’.
“I’m not so happy but [the Factory-Spec] is the bike we wanted in the beginning of the year; we were pushing for that,” said Quartararo, who took a lower-spec M1 to seven podiums in his rookie season.
“That’s what helped [convince] me to sign also with the Factory team was that we wanted this [Factory] bike, but unfortunately for this year it was not the correct choice!”
Echoing Vinales opinion – but in contrast to that of Valentino Rossi – Quartararo said: “For me, the [difference] between the 2020 bike and 2019 is really big.
“For sure Franco also made a step because last year he made no podiums and this year he’s much more fast. So Franco improved a lot and he deserves it because I saw that he’s working in a really good way.
“But even if I won three races, I’m not so happy because I think with a more consistent bike we could fight much more and fight for much more victories.”
“I think it’s more frustrating for, I will not say Yamaha, but when you work that much, normally the 2020 Factory bike – I will not say must be better, but similar or better [than last year’s bike],” he added.
One of the factors that seems to have cemented the opinion of Quartararoand Vinales is that they tried the revised 2020 Michelin rear tyres with the 2019 (A-Spec) Yamaha at Valencia last November.
“I’m curious to know, unfortunately I can’t, the potential that we would have with that new tyre and the old bike,” Quartararo said.
“In the test [last November] our pace was extremely fast here, with exactly the same tyre as we raced and last year’s bike. And this year we couldn’t even get one-second from this pace.”
Quartararo and Vinales now surely want Yamaha to take a serious look at the 2019 package as the basis for the 2021 Factory-spec bike.
“I think we must be quite clever to see which package we will go with next year,” Quartararo said. “I hope Yamaha can understand us. We will have a meeting from Portimao.”
The loss of faith in the 2020 Factory-Spec is so great that Quartararo and Vinales would likely jump at the chance to try the 2019 at the Portimao finale.
But since riders cannot change engine spec during the season, the nearest they could get in theory would be to combine the A-Spec chassis with Factory-Spec engine, but it’s not thought the 2020 engine will fit.
“I would love to do it! But I think it’s not possible,” said Quartararo.
“We will not have [the 2019 bike at Portimao],” said Vinales. “It’s impossible, because if I remember correctly you cannot change the engine spec… If we can, for sure we can change.”
But, even under the special Covid technical freeze, the three Factory-Spec Yamaha riders would be able to switch to the A-Spec engine (and therefore bike) for next season, since: ‘For the first event of 2021 riders will be allowed to choose between any engine or aero-body specification that the manufacturer homologated in 2020‘.
“Of course 2019 was a different season, but for me the bike was much more consistent,” Quartararo said.
“Jerez and Barcelona were great straightaway [in 2020] but at Misano and all the other tracks we are struggling way too much and I think we need to find a solution to be competitive like last year in every track.”
But Rossi, who will swap places with Quartararo next season, is far from convinced that the 2019 would be better.
“Sincerely, I raced last year with the 2019 bike, and this year with the 2020 bike, for me the difference is not very big, from what I remember,” said Rossi, who finished twelfth on Sunday.
“I think that Franco did an unbelievable season, and at the moment he is the fastest rider of MotoGP, he’s the guy more in shape. For me, this makes more difference. And we will see what happens next year.”
No improvement during two weeks at Valencia
Another nail in the coffin as far as Quartararo and Vinales’ faith in the 2020 M1 was the lack of progress made during the two back-to-back Valencia weekends.
“We have been here for two weeks. And in two weeks we have not made any improvement on the bike,” Quartararo said.
Quartararo now seems to have arrived at the same view as Vinales; the Factory-Spec either works incredibly well or not at all, largely depending on the amount of grip available. And if you are struggling, changing the set-up only makes things worse.
“I think we just need to go with our base on the bike,” Quartararo said. “I need to adapt myself to the bike because we saw that during all these changes nothing was working.
“So if we start in a really good way in Portimao, for sure we can have something really good.
“But if we are lost – and this is something that I think we learned quite a lot this weekend by changing the bike up and down, whatever you can imagine, and the improvement was zero.
“So I think if the bike is not going so well just adapt ourselves to the bike.”
Vinales, who finished as the top Factory-Spec M1 in tenth place on Sunday, 19-seconds from the thrilling victory fight between Morbidelli and Jack Miller, said:
“We changed many things on the bike, also Valentino and Fabio, and it seems that nothing is working. We have a limit – for example in this race, it was 1’31, and we cannot go under it.
“This weekend we found something positive on the brakes, and it’s good, because I can brake very late, and it’s something I like. But we don’t have rear grip, and this is the problem. On banking we have zero grip. And this is the difference compared to last year.
“Honestly speaking, we don’t know how to improve the bike, because we try many things.
“I don’t know what we are going to do for next year, because it’s difficult to have a clear direction. The more that we change, we never touch [improve] the grip area. So I really don’t know.
“We need to improve too many things. But I don’t to think too much about it. I have spent four years like this, I try to be calm, I try to give the best information I can for Yamaha, and we’ll see if next year we can have a more competitive bike.”
Perfect start for Quartararo at Jerez
All of which is a far cry from Quartararo’s perfect pair of victories, ahead of Vinales, at the Jerez season-openers.
But given the difficulties that have followed, the #20 now feels other factors were at play in his early wins.
“During the lockdown I was training more than ever and I think in that moment I was one of the riders that, after such a long time without riding, adapted myself so fast and maybe the other riders struggled a bit more at Jerez,” Quartararo explained.
“Jerez and Barcelona are also tracks that I’ve always been fast at and was really fast last year. But [this year] as soon as we arrived at a track where we were struggling a little bit last year, we are really far back.
“Here it was so strange because last year we fought for a great result [1.0s from Marc Marquez and victory] and now we were able to fight for 10th or 12th position.
“So I would be curious to see what our potential is with last year’s bike in these conditions.”
‘Mir deserves the title’
Despite their own title hopes officially ending on Sunday, Quartararo and Vinales were quick to congratulate new champion Joan Mir.
“He did an amazing season, the consistency he had, that’s why he won the championship because the consistency was amazing from race 4 to the end,” said Quartararo.
“He deserves a lot this title because that’s what we were missing this year, consistency, to fight for much more podiums. Apart from the three wins we made zero podiums.
“You can’t win a championship in this way and, yeah, struggling a lot to know why we are like this. But yes, Joan deserves the championship and big congratulations to him.”
Quartararo began the race tied with Mir’s Suzuki team-mate Alex Rins for second, but ran wide at Turn 2 and then fell from 18th place on lap 9.
“I had a little moment at Turn 2 and was close to hitting Maverick so I went to the outside,” said the Frenchman, who then got a track limits warning for repeatedly running wide as he struggled with the handling of his M1.
“I saw guys in front of me doing a lot of corner speed and I just tried to do the same as them but unfortunately crashed.”
Vinales qualified in sixth, but lost ground at the start and had dropped to 13th by the end of lap 1.
“The first jump at the start was good, but then everyone passed me on the straight,” said Vinales, one of the first to stop and congratulate Mir after the finish.
“He deserved it. They were really good, really strong,” said Vinales. “It’s a shame we made three zeroes. But anyway, what we saw at the end of the season is that we didn’t have anything to fight for the title. So honestly, I cannot say too much.
“I just want to congratulate him because he did super well, and that’s it.”
Rossi, who like Mir won his first premier-class title in his second season, said: “I did my congratulations to Mir, because first of all, to win the championship in your second season, it’s not for everybody. Just a small number of riders in history are able to win the championship in just their second season.
“He’s very young, but he doesn’t make mistakes. He always makes the right decision in the crucial moments, and he’s fast. So I think that he deserves a lot this championship, together with Suzuki and all the team. They made an unbelievable work, the bike works very well, and they deserve this victory.”
Morbidelli holds a 4-point advantage over Rins, 15-point lead over Vinales and 17-point lead over Quartararo in the fight to be title runner-up at Portimao.