After last year’s title success, an extension of the Quartararo-Yamaha partnership for a fifth season and beyond seemed a formality.
But doubts began to creep in when pre-season testing exposed a lack of technical upgrades for the M1, despite the end of a two-year freeze on engine design.
Most notably, Yamaha failed to address the M1’s top speed deficit, the one area where Quartararo had been pleading for progress.
Although head-and-shoulders clear of the other Yamaha riders in the opening flyaway rounds, Quartararo returned to Europe with only a wet podium at Mandalika to show for his efforts and not a single top-six finish in the dry.
While Yamaha’s weak early form might have helped the cause of rival manufacturers seeking to tempt the young Frenchman, in reality there was no stand-out factory from the opening rounds.
Ducati won two of the four races with Enea Bastianini, but using last year’s bike. KTM won in the wet at Mandalika, then Aleix Espargaro made history for Aprilia in Argentina. Honda’s new machine claimed one podium, with two rostrums for Suzuki. Quartararo was among ten riders to feature on the podium.
Then came Quartararo’s dominant victory in Portimao, his and Yamaha’s first win since Silverstone last season, also propelling the #20 into the title lead.
Such a boost will surely have helped Yamaha’s cause, but the factory’s managing director Lin Jarvis knows the key is to convince Quartararo that Yamaha will be much stronger from 2023.
“Fabio will not sign with us on the basis of this year’s package. It will be about whether he has confidence in our package for 2023 and 2024.” Jarvis told Speedweek.com.
“We were very open and honest with him. We apologised to him for the difficulties we caused him this year and which are still there.
“We have explained what our plan is for the future… I feel Fabio understands that we will come back with the strongest possible package and with an investment that will make all the difference next year.”
Yamaha ‘confident’ of ‘good news in June’
Such optimistic words suggest that, while no deal has yet been officially signed, the two parties are essentially in agreement on all the main areas of the new contract.
“I think we will come to an agreement with Fabio, also on the financial aspect. I believe that. I’m confident about that now,” Jarvis said.
“I expect the collaboration with Fabio Quartararo to continue for the next two years.
“At the same time, I would like to emphasise that we are not yet close to signing a contract. There are still some details to be discussed. But I am confident that we can go public with good news in June.”
Fabio Quartararo: ‘I haven’t signed anything’
After qualifying second fastest at Jerez, potentially setting up a long-awaited victory duel with Francesco Bagnaia on Sunday, Quartararo maintained his stance of not commenting in detail on his future.
“My manager is of course talking to Yamaha but during the race weekend I prefer to focus on my things and then back home we always discuss the weekend and our future,” he said.
“On Monday I will have more information, but I can say that I haven’t signed anything.”
Reigning title runner-up Bagnaia (Ducati) is one of four riders so far confirmed on the 2023 grid. The others are Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM) and Quartararo’s Monster Yamaha team-mate Franco Morbidelli.
Morbidelli was the next-best Yamaha in qualifying at Jerez, albeit in just 16th place, underlining the factory’s current reliance on Quartararo.
Quartararo enjoyed almost instant success after joining MotoGP with the satellite SRT Yamaha team in 2019. The Frenchman was then promoted to the official team, in place of Valentino Rossi, for 2021.