Four more Grand Prix in the home stretch of this Moto GP championship. And for the first time in the history of the discipline, a Frenchman, Fabio Quartararo, can become world champion. Before the Austin (United States) Grand Prix this weekend, the 22-year-old driver from Nice has a 48-point lead, a comfortable margin to win the title, even if nothing is done. Above all, it is only a step in the ambitious career that “El Diablo” aims for, as he confides to 20 Minutes.
You come out of a magnificent duel in Misano (Italy) with Francesco Bagnaia, your runner-up in the general classification. Will it be the duel of the last races?
Unfortunately there was not really a duel, I made a very good comeback but without really being able to fight. But I’m happy, the race went well, I recovered well, with a very good pace. Will it be the duel of the last four races? I don’t know, but for the championship, it will be with him that I will fight until the end of the season. In Austin I think there will be other competitors, it will be cool until the end. You have to have fun, do your best because there are a lot of drivers who will also be able to fight for victories. I must not think only of Bagnaia.
How are you managing this end of the season? In Austria (rain at the end of the race) you thought more about the championship than in Misano, where you gave everything to win the race …
In fact, it all depends on the circumstances. In Austria it was very easy to make a mistake, and we saw it since all my competitors who could play something also stopped to change bikes. In Misano I felt that I could fight for the victory so I gave my maximum, even if it meant taking risks.
What is the difference with last season in this race for the title of world champion?
Last year I was a little obsessed with the championship, wanting to stay first. But that’s something I leave behind, and now I prefer to see it race by race. This is what works. I didn’t do anything special, other than going to see a shrink at the end of the 2020 season who helped me. It was something of interest to me. But it is above all the experience that makes this difference.
With 19 Moto GP podiums, you are now the Frenchman with the most. What does it do to you?
For now, this is just the beginning. I want to continue this momentum, but especially not that it stops there. My goals are much higher, I must continue. Continue to give my maximum on Grands Prix and win several titles. But I have to go step by step, and a first world champion title this year would be a great one. Of course, having the record for the number of podiums is something exceptional, but my goal is to win world championships. I’m trying to make one of my dreams come true, and I’m getting there little by little.
Is there a lot of waiting on your shoulders, of pressure, at the end of the season?
Not especially at the end of the season. We are 48 points ahead, we still have four races to go so we have some leeway.
Do you feel a craze in France for the Moto GP through your performances?
Yes of course I can feel it. But honestly I’m so in my bubble right now that I don’t think too much about it. I see this change which is mainly linked to the efforts we have made and the very good work accomplished with the Yamaha team.
Johann Zarco had compartment syndrome surgery, you too last May, and five other pilots during the year. Are motorcycles just too powerful for the human body?
Yes, but unfortunately we don’t have much choice. Up front, the bikes are getting faster and faster so there is a race for performance. This is the reason why a lot of pilots have surgery. For my part, things are much better, I have no more discomfort, the operation went very well so I should not have any more problems.
There seems to be a good atmosphere in the MotoGP paddock, with a lot of closeness between you …
It is true that there is more than a good atmosphere, with a lot of respect between the drivers. We do a few little things together outside of the bike. It’s cool, and it better go like this.
Valentino Rossi, who you took over from Yamaha, will retire at the end of the season. What does it do to you?
What Valentino Rossi accomplished during his career is extraordinary. He’s the one who gave me this motivation to really want to fight in MotoGP, and it was through his performances that I made the decision to become a MotoGP rider. It is a benchmark for our sport. Even if there is no real sharing in the bike, it’s everyone for his own skin.