Petronas SRT rider Franco Morbidelli says his former team-mate Fabio Quartararo’s ability to ride what he called “romantic lines” on the M1 is the secret to his huge advantage over the other Yamahas at MotoGP’s German Grand Prix.
Quartararo was a mere 0.01 seconds off fellow Frenchman Johann Zarco’s pole position time on the Pramac Ducati, and will start from second.
That’s 14 places ahead of the next-best Yamaha, Valentino Rossi’s Petronas bike in 16th. Rossi’s team-mate Morbidelli is 18th after a qualifying crash and Maverick Vinales a hugely disappointing 21st on the second works M1.
With the tight nature of the Sachsenring making overtaking hard, Morbidelli predicted a hard race for all of them, and said there’s clearly something that Quartararo is doing differently on the bike to the rest of them.
“I know Fabio, and I know his strange riding style,” he said.
“And many times he’s able to do really romantic lines compared to the other guys.
“I know this, but I can’t do anything about it. I can do nothing about it.”
Morbidelli also continued to hint that some of his personal struggle is down to being the only Yamaha rider still on the older-spec M1.
“I feel great with the bike, but I’m on the limit all the time,” he added.
“We’ve been working quite well, but I lose a lot in the straights, I lose a lot in the downhill, in the main straight.
“And all around the track I lost some time compared to Quartararo, who is the fastest Yamaha.
“But practically half of the gap is on the straight lines and it’s impossible to recover.
“It’s difficult to then try to be faster than the fastest guy, or one of the fastest guys, in the rest of the track. It’s difficult. It’s a hard task and today we didn’t manage to do it.”
As bad as things were for Morbidelli, they were much worse for Quartararo’s factory team-mate Vinales.
Put on the back foot by a crash late in FP3 that meant he failed to automatically qualify for Q2, he was then completely unable to make the bike work come qualifying.
“I don‘t exactly know where the problem lies, but we are working on it,” said Vinales.
“It‘s difficult to say anything else about it at the moment.
“We are trying, working on the bike. We are working on corner speed as well. We are struggling on that point, the turning of the bike.
“Tomorrow in warm-up I’m going to try and work and see if we can improve, and then in the race.
“But it’s hard to understand where to improve, so we’ll try to collect information, improve the feeling and see what we have after the race. There’s no pressure.
“I have a good rhythm on used tyres, and maybe I can make up a lot of places in the last 15 laps. We will see.”
Even Quartararo admitted that it hadn’t been the easiest of days for him as his streak of pole positions ended after five in a row.
He acknowledged that the race is going to be harder still thanks to Yamaha’s struggle to find places to pass.
“We are all struggling a little bit this weekend,” said Quartararo.
“I expected to have a little better feeling with the front and on the turning, but I managed to get the Yamaha on the front row and I think that’s a great result for us.
“Starting from the front row is so important, because I know for me this is the most difficult track to overtake at.
“Marc [Marquez] and Miguel [Oliveira] are really strong, the front row guys are really fast, and Jack [Miller] is really strong. All of the top six guys.
“It’ll be an interesting race, and I think that it can be really fun.”