Quartararo’s MotoGP technique: ‘This year I’ve had to completely change my riding style’


Former MotoGP king Fabio Quartararo talks leg dangle, Yamaha’s fightback, where the YZR-M1 needs to improve, how he keeps smiling and why he thinks Marc Márquez is MotoGP’s most impressive rider

Fabio Quartararo cornering in MotoGP 2024 French GP

Quartararo was super-fast in last Sunday’s French GP at Le Mans – too fast to stay on!


Fabio Quartararo hasn’t won a grand prix since June 2022 but the rest of the grid has no doubt that he is still one of MotoGP’s most talented riders.

The 2021 world champion rode an amazing race last weekend at Le Mans, fighting his way through to sixth place and pushing his Yamaha YZR-M1 past its limit, before sliding off.

His biggest job right now is helping Yamaha get the M1 back to the front of the pack. Part of this process includes constantly adapting his riding technique as the bike continues to evolve.

Oxley: You are very mobile on the bike, especially forward and back…

Quartararo: It’s important to move off the side of the bike, but I’ve learned a lot over the years, especially in 2020, when I had to adapt to many things on the bike and started putting myself more to the front and more to the rear, depending where I am on the racetrack.

This is especially true in braking, when I’m more to the rear of the bike to keep the rear tyre on the ground to have as much grip as possible. And in acceleration I try to put as much weight on the front [to reduce wheelie].

Maybe you see me move around more than the others because I’m quite tall, but there are definitely some points with our bike where we have to pay more attention, especially because of wheelies.

Because you don’t have enough anti-wheelie downforce because of a lack of power?

Exactly, I have to work even more on the bike as a consequence of many things.

You talk about braking grip – you used to have an advantage in braking – was this technique or bravery?

I think I’m really, really strong in braking, especially in the past when we had more positive points in this area than the others. It’s still a strong point of mine, but now we are struggling in this area – we’re having some difficulty stopping the bike because the others have improved their rear grip a lot. When they go into corners they have a bike that is stable, with a lot of grip to stop the bike.

Fabio Quartararo with crew chief Diego Gubellini in MotoGP pit garage

Quartararo with crew chief Diego Gubellini, with whom he’s worked since he graduated to MotoGP in 2019


In the old days riders hardly touched the rear brake but using the rear tyre for braking is now a very important part of riding in MotoGP…

I’ve always used the rear brake a lot but now it’s quite complicated with our bike, because you have to find a balance between the most braking performance and sliding and locking the rear tyre.

When you see the KTM they can really put the bike sideways and stop really well. If you put our bike sideways it’s super aggressive and doesn’t stop, so it’s quite difficult for us to manage this area compared to the others. This is an area where we must make a step.

Do you use a thumb, scooter or foot brake?

Braking for right-handers I use my left thumb, for lefts I use my right foot.

You look like you’re using more leg dangle during braking this year.

With your leg out you get more air-stop [wind resistance], which helps you to stop. And the wind on your leg also helps you a bit to turn the bike, because at the moment we are struggling to lean the bike.

With our weaknesses I think I’ve improved my riding, so now we are working a lot to be stronger with the bike. And all the things I’ve learned will help when we improve our machine’s performance.

Riders dangle their legs for many reasons. Brad Binder told me it helps him to turn the bike, because it throws more load onto his inside wrist, which helps counter-steer the bike into corners.

Yes, but not so much for me. The dangle also helps me to find my balance on the bike.

MotoGP pack at Le Mans in 2024 Franch Grand Prix

Battling with the V4 hordes (Aprilia, Ducati, Honda and KTM) isn’t easy – Yamaha has had to change its bike and Quartararo has had to transform his riding style


There’s a limit to how much load you can put through the handlebars to steer the bike, so do you load the footpegs a lot?

Yes, especially in changes of direction, because physically the bike is now quite heavy [due to downforce aero]. And your leg muscles are much bigger than your arm muscles, so you use your legs as much as possible.

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But it depends in which area. I’m struggling so much to turn the bike that sometimes I lean my body out of the bike so far that my [outside] foot doesn’t even touch the footpeg!

Through the long right at COTA [Turns 17 and 18] my left foot was a bit like this [he waves his left foot in the air]. This means I’m really pushing to turn the bike, but then I can’t push on the footpegs with my feet to find grip for the exit.

Do you destroy the soles of your boots by pushing into the ’pegs?

You can see some small holes in the soles from where I’m pushing with my feet. Some riders burn their boots when they dangle the leg, because their feet are on the asphalt. I don’t really do that but you can really see how much force I push into the footpegs.

What changed from 2021 to 2023? You won the title in 2021, fought for the title in 2022 and last year you finished tenth.

Already in 2021 our bike wasn’t the best, then in 2022 we didn’t change anything but the others improved. Last season we improved the engine a little bit but the chassis got worse, while the others improved.

The biggest change was that in ’21 we had a lot of potential, especially over one lap [Quartararo scored five pole positions and a total of ten front-row starts that year], then I only got two poles in ’22 and last year I got no poles and only two front rows.

I think it was more the fact that the others made big steps and we stayed in the same place for too long. Sometimes we took one step forward in one area and then one step backwards in another. If you check the lap times they show that in many areas we didn’t improve.

Prototype Yamaha bike in MotoGP pitlane

Testing new downforce aero, designed jointly by Yamaha and car-racing engineers at Dallara in Italy


Apart from the horsepower of the other bikes, what made them better – downforce and grip?

The others made a massive change in grip, turning and the wheelie area.

Now you need engine power not only for the power, but for the possibility to use more downforce, because if you don’t have a strong engine and you have a lot of downforce you will lose more than you gain.

Last year we were often on the limit with the engine in acceleration, even with low downforce, so if we added more downforce the bike was even worse, so we couldn’t do it.

Also, most people only talk about grip in acceleration but it’s also the grip you can generate in braking. The grip you have when you are stopping and the grip you need to have the confidence to lean the bike really fast into the corner is the point where I think we really need to improve because from straight up to full-lean angle we are really slow. This is grip, not only downforce. We are trying to figure it out.

All the rival bikes are V4s, so you can’t use the M1’s strong points because you’re surrounded by riders doing something really different and they’re usually in the way, so has your riding technique had to change because of that?

People say to me, ‘Ah you’ve been with the same brand for six years, so you really know the bike’, but the bike is completely different now.

My riding has changed a lot in these six years and especially this year, because from last year to this year I’ve had to completely change my riding style and the team is still asking me try to do this or try to do that. You have to adapt a lot to how the bike is working. Like I said, we make a step in one area and lose in another, then I have to adapt to that.

Fabio Quartararo chases Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Marquez in 2019 race

Quartararo in his 2019 rookie MotoGP season, battling with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati), Marc Márquez (Honda) and Valentino Rossi (Yamaha)


How has your technique changed?

I was a rider that used really round cornering lines. Now I’m using V lines much more, but we are missing some turning from the bike – and using V lines without turning is complicated. You always try to adapt and create a situation where you can be as fast as possible.

How have downforce and ride-height devices changed the way you ride?

It’s changed a lot, because of the way of the engineers can increase the powers out of corners. With the downforce and the device, which gets the rear of the bike so low, you can use a lot more power. But the device also changes everything when you arrive in the braking area – the bike is much lower, so you have to brake and then the bike has to come back up.

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Here [at Jerez, where we are talking] you can only use the device out of the last corner [the Turn 13 hairpin] and onto the back straight [exiting the Turn 5 right-hander].

You cannot use it after the double right [Turns 9 and 10, where Pecco Bagnaia and Marc Márquez collided during last month’s Spanish GP] because you don’t really brake for the next corner [the fast, sweeping Turn 11], so the bike won’t come back up.

Are bikes more fun to ride now or before?

There’s a lot to think about now. For me, the way we rode in the past was better. We could focus much more on our riding, not thinking about the devices. But, I don’t know, maybe this is because Yamaha are not fighting for victories. Maybe if we were fighting for victories I would tell you that all the devices are more fun!

If you were king of MotoGP and in charge of the rules, what would you do?

I’d have the same as we had in 2019. For me, when you go to the start you shouldn’t need to engage the front [holeshot] device and engage the rear device – you should just push the launch-control button and do your stuff. This way it’s down to who has the best technique.

We do need a little bit of wings, but now the bike is a car, basically. There are many, many things – even wings on the front fender, so it’s crazy.

[New MotoGP rules were announced a week after this interview, banning devices and reducing downforce aero.]

Fabio Quartararo leans forward on MotoGP Yamaha M1 to control wheelie

Climbing over the front of his M1 to reduce wheelies, at Portimao

Do you ever get fed up because you’re one of the fastest guys and often you’re racing with riders you shouldn’t really be racing with?

Yes, but this is part of the job. I think MotoGP is becoming a bit like Formula 1, where you can clearly see that some brands are faster and the rider isn’t able to make so much of a difference anymore. But we are working really hard to be competitive.

You obviously have faith in Yamaha – that they will make it.

It’s been important to me to see how much they’ve changed since January and how they are approaching the future, with Max Bartolini [Yamaha’s new technical director] coming from Ducati, other aero engineers coming from Ducati [Marco Nicotra, formerly Ducati’s lead aerodynamicist] and working [on aero] with Dallara [a famed Italian race car business]. This is all really important.

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And how fast we are moving now. It feels like another world compared to last year – everything is moving super-fast. They don’t need to confirm and reconfirm things like they did in the past – if something is a bit better, they put it on the bike.

Many riders look like it’s the end of the world when they’ve had a bad day, a bad week or a bad year, but you seem to manage to keep smiling. Is this natural or something else?

It’s natural for me, because even if it’s tough at the moment, I’m doing my dream job and I’m in a dream place where I always wanted to be.

Now we are going through a tough period but it’s not the end of the world and the way we are working now is giving me more smiles. I know it will be a tough year, but I know how hard people are working to come back and wherever we finish I’m happy if I’ve given my 100%. That’s what I do in every race and in every practice – this is why I’m smiling!

Whose riding impresses you the most?

Clearly Marc [Márquez] and the way he rides, also now, has always been an example for me. People say he’s not winning but there aren’t many people [sic] on the 2023 Ducati who are as strong as him. Marc, for me, is the fastest. You could see with the Honda how much he was pushing. He’s the guy who really impresses me the most.

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