Fabio Quartararo made it two victories from two races for the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP team, after the Frenchman fought through the field to take victory at the Losail International Circuit. Team-mate Maverick Viñales produced an equally impressive comeback to secure fifth place after losing positions in the early stages of the 22-lap Grand Prix. Franco Morbidelli brought his PETRONAS Yamaha SRT M1 home in 12th place, with Valentino Rossi finishing 16th.
Starting round two from fifth on the grid, Quartararo fell victim to the typical opening lap battle, dropping to eighth, just ahead of team-mate Maverick Viñales, who also dropped positions on the first lap.
As the race settled and the pace picked up, the factory Yamaha duo kept their cool and bided their time. They both knew it would be a race of two halves, with tyre management playing a big role in the second visit to Qatar. With the soft compound the favoured tyre, Quartararo and Viñales managed their pace comfortably as they maintained their positions in the leading group.
The Monster Energy Yamaha duo were line astern at the half-way point of the race and as the Grand Prix entered its second phase, Quartararo showed his hand. The Frenchman climbed his way up to sixth after benefiting from a mid-race tangle for two of his rivals and immediately set after Alex Rins in a hunt for a podium finish. The hard-charging former CEV champion was quick to dispatch Rins, moving clear of the Suzuki rider at turn four, securing fifth place.
Likewise, team-mate Viñales was also making progress aboard his YZR-M1. The Spaniard dropped to ninth in the early stages of the Grand Prix but used his race-winning experience from the opening round to get the most out of his tyres. By lap 16, the 26-year-old was up to sixth place after mistakes from Joan Mir, Aleix Espargaro and Francesco Bagnaia gave him the perfect opportunity to pounce. With the podium positions in sight, it was time for both factory Yamaha riders to give it all they had.
The factory duo then pulled off a double overtake at turn ten, as Quartararo moved past Johann Zarco with an inch perfect pass for third, whilst Viñales pulled off a carbon copy manoeuvre to that of his team-mate as he passed Jack Miller. Just four corners later and it was Quartararo’s turn to lead. The fast French rider had a perfect run through turn 14 and positioned himself for a brave pass at turn 15, taking the lead with four laps to go.
However, it wasn’t an easy task for Quartararo, who slipped back to second on the front straight, but that didn’t stop the number-20 rider, who regained the advantage with a pass at turn four. While the rider from Nice hit the front, Viñales had put himself in podium contention after passing Johann Zarco, but a mistake from the Qatar Grand Prix victor saw him slip back to fourth place with work to do in the closing stages.
Back at the front, Quartararo had opened his lead to just under half a second to Jorge Martin and continued to break away from the chasing pack, eventually crossing the line to take victory by 1.4 seconds. Viñales continued to put pressure on the two Pramac Racing bikes in what was a stunning final few laps charge, but a small mistake at turn one saw him slip back behind Rins. The Spanish rider gave it everything on the final lap of the 3.34-mile-long Qatari circuit, but just fell short, wrapping up the Doha Grand Prix in a strong fifth place.
With Quartararo’s victory, the factory Yamaha duo see themselves head to Portimao joint second in the standings, with the pair sitting on 36 points. Yamaha also head the charge in the constructor’s championship with 50 points, while Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP maintain their advantage in the teams’ championship.
The MotoGP World Championship will return to action in Portugal as the riders return to the roller-coaster that is Portimao across the weekend of 16-18 April.
Fabio Quartararo: “I have no words. This race win is different from the previous three MotoGP races I‘ve won so far. After the last race I was a bit disappointed in myself. During this race it was totally different. I was thinking so well, I played a lot with the map and the tyres. Nine or ten laps to the end I thought ’Right now is the moment to push and show our potential‘.
“It‘s great to finish in first position! I was so happy with FP4, because I felt like I was the only rider to do only high 1‘54s laps. So we made a plan, but the team also told me to play it by feeling, and I did that really well today. I was feeling so good. When I overtook Zarco, I also immediately overtook Martin. I was so scared when I hit the debris on track. I thought ’Not a puncture, please!‘, because it made a bad sound. My last lap didn‘t feel as fast as the earlier ones, but it was enough for the win. Singing the French anthem with Zarco today was the best moment I ever had.”
Maverick Vinales: “For sure, the race didn‘t go as we expected, but I‘m still quite happy, because in the end this is a positive result. I was managing the tyres a lot at the beginning so I could be stronger at the end. It paid off, because at the end I was very strong, especially the rear grip was good. I just wish we would have had five more laps. We will try to come back stronger. I know we have to improve some areas, mainly my riding style. The most important thing is that the bike has great potential, and we demonstrated this in the last ten laps. I was trying to overtake and be stronger every lap. We tried, and overall I felt it was a positive day, even if the results didn‘t show our true potential for Qatar Race 2. Still, I think fifth is a nice result, and I fought back with all that I had.”