Fabio Quartararo earns first MotoGP championship in third season

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Fabio Quartararo clinched his first MotoGP championship in his third season when his closest competitor for the title, Francesco Bagnaia, crashed out of the lead with five laps remaining in the Emilia-Romagna GP. With two rounds remaining and 25 points awarded to winning riders, Quartararo holds a 65-point lead.

Marc Marquez won the race in Misano over Pol Espargaro and Enea Bastianini. Quartararo finished fourth and missed the podium by less than a second.

While Quartararo would have liked to clinch with better finish, he was pleased to have made his way to the front of the pack from his 15th starting position – especially after seeing Bagnaia start from the pole.

And frankly, grinding out a solid top-five under challenging conditions made this race a fitting end to the yeoman’s season.

“I never start (further back than) P11 in Moto GP, and I’m starting from P15 on the one of the most important race of my career,” Quartararo said during the post-race press conference. “We chose the safe tires. For us the hard would have been much better, and I think that the podium was there with the hard, but I had no more stability when I was behind all the group. I couldn’t overtake.

“I’m really happy about my race, even if I would not have won the championship, because it’s something really great and (a great) experience that I had that we finished P4.

“Super happy about my race and of course, with the championship it is something extra.”

After starting the season with a fifth-place result in the GP of Qatar, Quartararo won the next two races and then suffered his worst finish of the season in Spain. He crossed under the checkered flag 13th. That race shook his confidence after ending the 2020 season with a series of hardships and an eight-place position in the points standings.

Quartararo won three races last year, but those were his only podiums for the season.

Even with his disappointing finish in Spain he earned a few points, and in hindsight, it was that consistency for which he credits his championship. Quartararo was back on the podium in his next outing at France and won the Italian GP, which is the race he says turned his season around.

“I think the consistency we had this year (was critical). I’m touching wood,” Quartararo said as he playfully tapped his skull. “But we finished all the races and were scoring every time points, points, points. I think even in Jerez (Spain) I scored three points with the arm pump problem. So I think the consistency of 2021 is same as in 2019, but we are faster so that was the key to winning the championship this year.”

Quartararo finished fifth in the standings in his maiden season of 2019.

Through 16 rounds of 2021, Quartararo has ground out the finishes.

In a highly competitive field, he has scored three consecutive podiums only once. Back-to-back second-place finishes at San Marino and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas put him in the position to clinch in Misano, but the turning point came in Round 6. His Mugello victory, coupled with problems for a lightning fast Bagnaia, convinced him that the title was in reach.

“For me the key point was Mugello when we won because Bagnaia was super strong and he made a mistake on the first second lap … that was where I took a lot of confidence back.”

Clinching the Moto GP title with two races remaining gives Quartararo an opportunity to bask in the glory.

It will also give him a chance to regain his voice before the championship banquet.

“To be honest I have already not my original voice.” Quartararo said “So I cry a lot. I scream a lot. But it feels amazing, because when I cross the finish line, I think of all the tough moments I had and to be world champion in MotoGP is something that I never expected when I was in a bad situation a few years ago. So right now, I’m feeling the dream.”

Fabio Quartararo MotoGP championship
Fabio Quartararo of France celebrates his title after finishing fourth in the Emilia-Romagna GP in Misano Adriatico, Italy. (Photo by Steve Wobser/Getty Images)