Ahead of the Gran Premi Monster Energy de Catalunya, the pre-event Press Conference saw reigning Champion and Championship leader Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) joined by closest challenger and home hero Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing), three-time MotoGP™ race winner Enea Bastianini (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) and Mugello victor Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) to talk about the weekend ahead.
Here are some key quotes!
On a new deal with Yamaha:
Fabio Quartararo: “It was not an easy decision and we took a little bit more time to evaluate all of the project and, in the end, Yamaha made a lot of effort to bring a lot of new people and they know where they need to improve. The last two or three years they were working on some areas or another and now they know where they need to improve. They know clearly it’s the power, so I’m super happy because they really understand. They are doing their best to find what we are missing and I believe in the project, so that’s why we took the decision a few weeks ago. Of course, it was a good decision.”
Why stay with Yamaha?
FQ20: “My first goal is to have the best bike and the best project like I said before. They convinced me because they’re bringing new people, they are working super hard and they know exactly where they need to improve. In the past maybe they were working on a few different areas but they don’t really accept the bike was slower than the others. Now they know and they are clearly working on this weak point, so that’s what made me take the decision to stay at Yamaha.”
Thoughts on this weekend?
“Last year was a strange weekend. I always feel good in this track. I had my first podium here in MotoGP, first win in Moto2, last year we were really fast, so there is no reason we cannot fight for a great result this year. Of course, we know that we have the long straight here but in with Mugello, it was a problem, but we finished second. Hopefully here we can feel much better from tomorrow morning and work a lot better than in Mugello and see if we can have a great pace since FP1.”
How special is it to come to your home race with a genuine chance of winning?
Aleix Espargaro: “It’s crazy, sincerely. Every year, the home GP is special, it’s very beautiful, very nice. During my career, when you’re young, it’s more difficult to deal with this pressure, to deal with a lot of people coming, but year-by-year, I have tried to improve this and I make it more normal. But this year again, it’s completely different because I arrive in the best shape of my career, fighting on top, so it’s fantastic. I feel very good and I will try to enjoy it as much as I can, working hard from FP1 to prepare the bike and put a good show on Sunday.”
Do you feel any extra pressure here as a Championship contender, and if so, how do you deal with it?
AE41: “Not really. I had extra pressure here when I arrived in 10th, 12th place in the championship and I was dreaming of fighting for the podium. I crashed every year because I went 200 percent and I wasn’t myself and the bike was not ready to go at the results that I was dreaming about. So, actually this year, I don’t have more pressure, it’s the opposite. I know I will enjoy it, I have no doubt that the bike will be competitive here, and I have no doubt that I will be competitive here as well, so I am trying to keep the feet on the ground but enjoy it as much as I can.”
What do you think will be the strengths of your RS-GP around this circuit?
AE41: “More or less, the bike is working everywhere. But, for example, in Mugello behind Fabio, I struggled a lot on the change of direction, he was able to carry a lot more speed than me. Here in Barcelona, there is less change of direction, but also the engine performance is very, very important, so Pecco and ‘Bestia’ will be very strong as well because they’ve been also on the last races. Of course, every circuit has its points that are good and bad for my bike, but I think Barcelona suits the RS-GP quite well.”
Tell us about your helmet this weekend:
AE41: “Four years ago, here during the Barcelona GP, my twins were born, and my girl had a problem with her heart. She’s been operated on twice, and I suffered a lot then. It is to thank CorAll Family and the group of doctors that did everything possible. I have a feeling that I arrive now and I have a huge impact on people, on society, so it’s my way of saying thanks to them, and paying tribute to them. Mia is still too young to realise this, but for the doctors, for everyone at CorAll Family, it’s my way of saying thanks to them.”
Thoughts on the weekend?
Enea Bastianini: “It’s a nice track for me. It’s fast but also a very technical circuit. I come from a not-so-beautiful race in Mugello because I crashed. I’m motivated to start in the best mood here. Last year it was a little bit complicated for me, the first time with the MotoGP bike and the grip of the asphalt is not too high. I have to adapt my riding style a little bit this year. We will see what we can do and we have to do our 100% percent.
“I have to be more consistent because I’ve made some really good races but then some are not really nice like in Mugello and in Portimao. I have to do more to stay more concentrated in the future and also to enjoy it.
“In Le Mans but also in Mugello I missed a little bit of feeling on the front, especially in the entry of the corner. I think we understand why it’s been difficult for me to stop the bike in straight-line braking. We know what we have to modify on the setup to resolve this problem.”
Catalunya has not always been a great track for you; what are your thoughts going into this weekend?
Francesco Bagnaia: “In 10 years in the World Championship, I have never had a good result here. My last podium was in 2012, in the Spanish championship, so I have to change this situation a bit. In any case, it’s one of my favourite Grands Prix of the year, I always like to travel here, I like the track, I like the people, and it’s great. But, for sure it will be important to do the same work we did last weekend, from FP1. We already know that racing here is like doing flat track, so it will be very important to understand that and improve our grip with the setting.”
Will the key focus in practice be on how to manage the tyres for the last 10 laps of the race?
FB63: “Yeah, the drop-off of the tyres on this track, especially on the right side, is heavy, so it will not be easy. Last year, the three guys on the podium, and Fabio, had the hard rear, so the consumption is high, and it will be very important to be smart in the race. It will not be easy because normally when the grip is low, we have to change the setting a bit, because my setting is a bit different, so let’s see. We will have a lot of work to do in these days but I am quite sure that we will be competitive.”
Do you think you and the other three riders seated here are the clear Championship contenders now?
FB63: “It’s the same as what I said in Mugello. I think that we can be the contenders for the title. There is still a lot of races to go but at the moment, it’s like this…”
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