The ‘best race’ shows who is the best MotoGP rider right now

“Honestly, it feels like we’ve won Mugello now two years in a row.”

It’s unusual to see the crew chief of a reigning champion be so happy with a second place finish, but Lin Jarvis knows better than anyone that his Yamaha rider Fabio Quartararo probably wasn’t meant to do what he did at the Italian Grand Prix. .

Quartararo risked an utterly frustrating race from sixth on the grid, trailing five Ducatis who were going to chop his Yamaha M1 to shreds on Mugello’s huge main straight lap after lap.

Instead, he nailed his start, winning his opening duel against Aleix Espargaró and then working his way through the Ducati army. He was unable to resist Francesco Bagnaia, but managed to prevent him from breaking away completely.

From a pure description point of view it’s perhaps nothing special, but there was very little from earlier in the weekend to suggest that Quartararo could salvage a podium here, let alone a second place.

His race pace looked good but not spectacular, and he seemed destined to get stuck behind a random Ducati or KTM in the lower reaches of the top 10.

Instead, he prepared himself to more or less perfection by achieving mixed conditions qualifying and then executing the race perfectly. His championship lead is doubled and he has 41 points over today’s race winner Bagnaia.

“Basically, it was the best race of my career, to be honest,” admitted Quartararo.

I felt bad all weekend [before the race].

“I made an amazing start, the best, and then I was overtaking, losing the front, losing the rear, Ducati was overtaking on the straight, I was overtaking backwards, I think it was the best race.

“Before the race I was ‘OK, I have nothing to lose’ because I knew my pace was not that good.

“To be honest, I was riding at my best today.”

Quartararo’s self-praise has been a fairly familiar refrain for 2022, and it can make you nervous if you want to. He has engaged in serious hyperbole, strongly suggesting that he has spent every lap of every session at the limit of the bike.

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But if that level of self-confidence is what’s propelling Quartararo to his early 2022 form, so be it, because he really has been exceptional, and perhaps nowhere more so than at Mugello this Sunday, on a bike that he very, very marginally snuck into Q2 on .

The obvious benchmark for Quartararo is that none of the other Yamahas scored points at Mugello. Clearly there is something fishy going on with the factory spec bikes as Franco Morbidelli and Andrea Dovizioso were absolutely humiliated by not only Quartararo but also Moto3 graduate Darryn Binder, who beat both of them on his older spec Yamaha to despite taking a long ride. penalty fee.

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But there’s also the other thing: Quartararo isn’t making any big mistakes. He is pushing, but he is not bumping. He basically he has collected almost all available points this season.

Arguably at Mugello he even scored some ‘unavailable’ points. Quartararo credits a reversion to “normal fairing” with allowing him to be better in the race, but even a mere top-5 finish would have been decent and instead he came within a second of winning the race.

His debutant 2019 was dazzling. His 2021 championship was compelling. But 2022, even if he ends up losing the title, is shaping up to be a legacy-building year for MotoGP’s undeniable new standard-bearer.

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