Next year, Fabio Quartararo will be the boy, the contender, the fly in the Marquez’ anusol. Of that there is no question. The Spaniard himself has said so. In fact he has said it so often, that maybe he thinks Quartararo’s head will roll off with all the faux-praise.
Whether Quartararo will be someone for Marquez to contend with next year is not so interesting because that answer is known. Whether Quartararo will be sitting in the same garage the year after is the more interesting question.
Quartararo recently extended his Petronas deal to the end of 2020 complete with factory-spec M1 but you can bet your sweet patootie that come next March, the negotiations for 2021 and beyond will begin.
Yamaha will want the signature of the Nice man. And considering who is due to retire at the end of 2020, you can see the most natural progression will be into the works Yamaha team on a big, and maybe lengthy, deal.
It makes the most sense for Quartararo as he is already more golden than the previous golden boy, Maverick Vinales, who will likely move away when the contract ends. Quartararo will take one slot in the team with a Sky VR46 pupil nabbing the other.
What won’t have been seen is Quartararo’s ability to adapt and change. Rossi and Casey Stoner showed they are able to win championships on more than one type of motorbike. Jorge Lorenzo has proven he can’t do that and it is highly doubtful that Marquez will even try.
Years ago, the ability to win races and championships on different sorts of bike mattered. A lot. In recent years, popular opinion states is doesn’t matter how you win, so long as you win.
One-trick ponies like Lorenzo are still considered great among greats like Eddie Lawson who won races against Wayne Rainey while riding a Cagiva, of all things.
There hasn’t, for some considerable time, been a rider that should be as firmly at the top of every manufacturer’s ‘to do’ list as Quartararo. Ah, not everyone’s. KTM’s Pit Beirer said that after the Zarco Experiment, he would think long and hard before hiring a Yamaha rider again.
And if Beirer is thinking it - saying it out loud, in fact - then maybe Alberto Puig is too. And Paolo Ciabatti. And Davide Brivio. And Massimo Rivola.
Quartaro is only 20, and will be squeaking into his 21s when these decisions will need to be made. He should pick up his first world title anytime between January 2020 and 2022.
Possibly he should stay with Yamaha. It’s clear that by mistake or design, the RC213V is only Marquez-friendly. The Ducati, though good, doesn’t suit ‘Yamaha’ riders. The Aprilia will be entirely different by Qatar next season so the GSX-RR is the next-best option. But Suzuki might not be able to afford him by then…
What has now become clear is that MotoGP has a solid future after Rossi. Two years ago, there was a real sense of WTF as the grandstands were still full of yellow and not much else. Clearly, he is still the prince but with funny, educated and talented prospects like Quartararo in the works (team), everything might just be OK…