Quartararo on pressure, promise and the Catalan GP

Fabulous Fabio took his maiden Grand Prix win in Barcelona, from pole. But it’s been a long road to the top

A few years ago, the name on the tip of talent searchers’ tongues was Fabio Quartararo. The young Frenchman won the FIM CEV Moto3™ Championship in 2013, becoming the youngest to do so, and then defended his crown the following year with no less than nine wins, 11 podiums and six pole positions. It wasn’t the Junior World Championship at that time – it became so the following season – but it was the same incredible level of competition. Quartararo moved up to the Moto3™ World Championship in 2015 with the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

Until Sunday at the Catalan GP, that weight of expectation hadn’t been lifted. He’d taken two poles and two podiums as a Moto3™ rookie in 2015, but he moved teams and struggled to 13th in the Championship the following year. He then moved up to Moto2™ quicker than many anticipated and again ended the season in 13th. But talent, fickle as it can seem, doesn’t disappear.

After taking a stunning first Moto2™ pole on Saturday, the HDR-Speed Up racing rider had the best view into Turn 1 for the first time in more than three years. And it would have been easy to crack under the pressure and expectation, but the Frenchman put in a flawless performance to get away in the lead group, make his way to the front…and disappear. 10 laps that seemed like an eternity later and Quartararo was a Grand Prix winner.

He sat down with motogp.com following his maiden win to talk about victory, pressure and the road to the top.

“At the moment, it hasn’t really sunk in,” begins the Frenchman. “I’ve had to keep telling myself it happened and I’m only just realising it now. I won from pole, and I think it really was a perfect weekend – without a doubt the best of my career so far. So much work has gone into getting here and it’s very satisfying to get a result like that after two difficult seasons.

“I hadn’t had a podium in three years. I’d never won in the World Championship. In 2015, a lot of people were comparing me to Marc Marquez. That was a lot of pressure, and especially at that age I didn’t really realise. I don’t think I could take it anymore. So this result is just fantastic.”

Such words make the Frenchman sound like a veteran, and in many ways he is. But he only turned 19 in April and his victory makes him the second youngest ever Moto2™ winner, after the aforementioned Marquez. The hard work had already begun to pay off earlier this season with two top tens, but what then made the difference in Barcelona?

“After Mugello we found some good setups. And when we got to Jerez I’d also decided to reconsider my riding style, in braking and on corner exit. In Barcelona, for the first time, I felt like I was riding naturally.”

So, is that the ‘click’ that will see Quartararo remain a frontrunner, riding naturally and free of the monkey of lacking maiden win on his back? He thinks it may well be.

“I think so, because after Jerez we’ve had a different way of working. It took a while to find it, but I think it’s the right one. In any case, it works! We have to keep going in this direction, and there’s no reason why the results shouldn’t continue.”

It may have taken a while but at 19, time is still very much on Quartararo’s side.