Yamaha MotoGP test rider and stand-in racer Cal Crutchlow jumped to the defence of reigning world champion and current points leader Fabio Quartararo following Sunday’s Thai Grand Prix.
A non-scoring 17th-place finish for Quartararo in wet conditions allowed main championship rival Pecco Bagnaia to close the gap to a mere two points with three rounds of the 2022 series remaining.
Crutchlow spent much of the race alongside Quartararo after the Frenchman was punted backwards from his second row starting position in opening-lap contact with Jack Miller.
The pair then battled outside the points to close down the group in front of them in a desperate attempt to take away anything at all from the weekend. RNF rider Crutchlow ended up two places behind Quartararo in 19th.
That meant Andrea Dovizioso’s replacement had a prime chance to see what exactly went wrong for his Yamaha stablemate.
Crutchlow reckoned Quartararo had done nothing wrong and that all that happened was that the usual woes of the current M1 were amplified by the rain.
“I expected better,” said Crutchlow afterwards of Yamaha’s overall race, “but as you can see, today wasn’t our day.
“We couldn’t lean the bike, couldn’t go around corners, we had too much heat and too much pressure in the front tyre, and that’s it. Not much more to say.
“I followed Fabio and at one point I passed him because I thought I could go. We were coming to the group in front, but the tyre pressure was just so high, even on the first lap of the race.”
He insisted that’s not a consequence of anything Quartararo or Yamaha did wrong at the weekend – although it was perhaps made significantly worse by the guesswork forced upon them by the complete lack of wet track time prior to the race.
But whatever the cause, Crutchlow felt there was nothing he or Quartararo could have gone to get a better result.
“The rain just exaggerates the problems that we have in the dry,” he explained.
“We couldn’t open the throttle in the end, and at the start I had to push a lot with the rear because the front was so high pressure and so hot that I couldn’t even ride with the front wheel – I had to ride with the rear.
“I passed Fabio, he was behind me, he was gaining on me again, and I was never going to be in the points so I let him pass me, and he stayed in the same position that I was in before.
“In the end, this was the situation. We would have had a lot better race in the dry.”
And despite a points-scoring result from Franco Morbidelli in 13th – the first time he’s outscored team-mate Quartararo in a race they’ve both finished since their Petronas Yamaha days – Crutchlow was adamant Quartararo’s result was all down to the bike, not the champion’s riding.
“It was a bad weekend all round for Yamaha,” Crutchlow added, “and it’s unfortunate because I think if it had been a dry race then we would have all had good races, from our pace.
“But we expected more in the rain as well. Fabio was on the podium in Mandalika, then he came here and he was nowhere.
“He’s a good wet weather rider. Last year, he came really strong in Le Mans and this year he was on the podium in Mandalika, but the bike, honestly speaking, is not the best in the dry. He’s riding so well in the dry that he’s making the difference.
“In the rain, everyone is riding well, as good as they were, but our bike’s problems are exaggerated even more.
“We need to improve it, and then we’ll see what happens.
“Frankie had a good race, but he still finished 20-something seconds from the winner, and we don’t come here to finish 20 or 30 seconds from the winner, that’s for sure.”