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MotoGP™ descended on Paris on Tuesday to officially launch the SHARK Helmets Grand Prix de France; an event that simply couldn’t have been without French sensation Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) after his rollercoaster start to life in the premier class.
After qualifying fifth for his debut race, only to stall his Yamaha M1 on the grid 24 hours later, it’s fair to say the Frenchman has immediately experienced the highs and lows that MotoGP™ can throw up. So, motogp.com took the opportunity to sit down with the 19-year-old to discuss it all.
“It was the first time that I was on the grid surrounded by 22 other riders,” said Quartararo on his nightmare start to the race. “I did not hear my engine and a result, the revs were a little too low, which is why I stalled.”
With the rookie consequently forced to start from pitlane, Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Team Manager Wilco Zeelenberg stepped in to offer some words of advice for Quartararo.
“He did not tell me much except ‘stay calm, stay calm’. He had to repeat it to me two or three times. He has loads of experience within MotoGP and he saw that my rear tyre was full of sand. In addition to that, the tyres had cooled, just like the brakes, so that's also why he wanted me to stay calm. In my head, I was mad with rage, but I knew that I had to pay attention on the first laps.”
“Given my pace, I think we could have finished in the top eight. That was a reasonable goal but with that being said, there are still many races ahead of us. We will inevitably gain more and more experience. Nevertheless, I remain satisfied with my first MotoGP race.”
Quartararo also spoke openly and honestly about how previous experiences are helping him handle the increased media attention: “It's true that in 2016, I was often criticized for posting any photo other than of me training. In fact, people were ignoring that I was actually doubling my efforts and, to be honest, I didn’t have a very good experience until I learnt how to disregard all these comments.”
Off the track, the talented teen also got the chance to meet and chat with current F1 world champion Lewis Hamilton: “It was a really nice moment. Lewis is a big fan of MotoGP and he's always dreaming of trying one.
“He asked me a lot of questions: on the electronics, on the rear brake that I have with my thumb, on what I say to my chief mechanic when I come back to the box, if I tell him what changes to make on the bike or if I just describe my feeling. Frankly, it was great to talk to him.”
“In Qatar, we had three days of testing under our belts. So, in other words, we knew more or less what to expect. In Argentina, we will arrive without any point of reference, we will need to adapt quickly. Our goal is to qualify inside the top ten on the grid, although I already know that that will be very difficult.”
After finishing just outside of the points in Qatar, even though he managed to set the fastest lap of the race, the Frenchman will be hoping to kick off his season at Termas de Rio Hondo with a strong performance, despite admitting he's likely to find it more challenging than he did at the Losail International Circuit.
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