After delivering a fearsome race pace in final practice, Quartararo was in contention for the front row in qualifying… until he arrived at the final sector of the Spanish circuit.
‘T4’ consists of two long straights joined by one corner. Quartararo was losing almost 0.4s through that sector and he crossed the line 0.733s from title rival Francesco Bagnaia’s pole time, leaving him sixth on the grid.
Jokingly asked if he has some kind of a plan to neutralize T4 tomorrow, Quartararo smiled: “There is no legal plan! It’s like this, we know. We used video analysis in the last corner to see exactly, and we don’t lose [time there].
“So we know where the four tenths are [being lost, on the straights]… and if you add that up over 23 laps, it’s quite a lot!”
Next best Yamaha rider 19th: ‘You can be proud, but…’
With the next best Yamaha just 19th, Quartararo was asked if he takes pride from pushing his bike to the limit – almost falling at Turn 2 as he tried to squeeze every last drop of corner speed.
“When you do this the first time, it’s good. But when you look at the first run, you are ‘red helmet’ [on course for pole position] until the last sector and then cross the line in P6 by four tenths…
“At the end you can be proud, but… [There are] many things, many bad words in my head! But I’m starting to get used to it and we know where we lose the four tenths.”
“I gave my maximum. Maybe I could have improved my lap time, but not the position, if I hadn’t lost the front in Turn 2. So then I set my best time on the second lap. But it’s not a massive change, I would not have improved by half-a-second.”
And so the reigning champion goes into Sunday facing a familiar situation: While nearest title rival Francesco Bagnaia heads an all-Ducati front row, Quartararo knows that without a ‘perfect’ start and opening lap, his race-winning pace could quickly become smothered by the pack.
“It’s a shame because I’m super happy about my pace. I feel so good. I feel we have the pace to fight for victory,” he confirmed. “But it’s been exactly the same since the beginning of the year.
“I can have a good pace or a faster pace than the others, but in the race I will be [fighting through from] behind. So the problem is this. Qualifying is super important.
“P6 today was the maximum, maximum, maximum… [but] I think we can still do something great tomorrow.”
Tire pressure critical to Quartararo’s chances
Quartararo has never finished higher than fifth on a MotoGP bike at Aragon, with soaring tire pressures while stuck behind other riders frequently taunting his chances.
“As we don’t start from pole position, I think we will start lower in pressure,” he said. “Because we will be behind at least some bikes and then the pressure will go up.
“This is the problem because I will need to push so much on the braking and let’s see if the pressure is not going so high. This will be the biggest [issue] for me tomorrow, the front tire pressure.
He added: “In the beginning we will have to be careful, but also aggressive because I need to take many risks in the first lap. So I will try to warm up the tires really well [formation] lap and then see how it’s going.
“I will need to make aggressive overtakes and if we need to [make] contact, we will have to, but it will be my only solution for this race.”
Eight-time world champion Marc Marquez, returning to action this weekend, said: “As we saw today, the Ducati riders are so fast. Fabio is doing something special with his bike. There are three riders that are flying, Pecco, Bastianini and Fabio.”
Aleix Espargaro is also suffering against the Ducatis on the straight
Quartararo – who will continue to use the new Yamaha chassis for the race – will start Sunday’s race 30-points ahead of Bagnaia, winner of the last four rounds, and 33 clear of Aleix Espargaro, who lines up fourth.
Espargaro’s Aprilia is also suffering relative to the Ducatis on the long back straight.
“The Ducatis are very strong, very fast in the straight, where Fabio and I lose close to 10k’s,” Espargaro said.
“That means that we have to [push] a little bit more in acceleration, which means that we destroy a little more the rear tire, which is not good here.
“So now I want to sit with my team and do a long technical debrief to see where we can use a little bit less rear tire to arrive better in the last part of the race.”
Quartararo and Espargaro set an average top speed of 339.5 and 341.4km/h respectively in qualifying, compared with the best average of 350.4km/h for the Ducati of front-row starter Enea Bastianini.