Petronas SRT MotoGP rider Fabio Quartararo does not believe he is ready to fight for the world championship in 2020.
Quartararo managed seven podiums on an slightly detuned ‘B-spec’ Yamaha in 2019, which included two near-misses in victory battles with Marc Marquez at Misano and in Thailand, and ended up as comfortably the best rookie in fifth in the standings.
He will ride a factory-supported latest-spec Yamaha this season before stepping up to the works team in place of Valentino Rossi in 2021, and has been marked by many – including six-time premier class champion Marquez – as a title challenger.
However, speaking on the eve of last week’s Sepang pre-season test, Quartararo admitted he does not think he will factor in that battle yet.
“Last year we did a really good rookie season and I learned many things from many riders,” he said.
“But I think we still need this year to fight.
“I don’t want to say I’m ready for the championship because I’m not and I think this year is a year that from Qatar we can fight for the top positions.
“Last year in the same moment we were P16 in the standings here in the test, and I think we will start higher here.
“So, I have more experience, I don’t want to make the same mistakes as last year.
“I will not say [I will finish] at least second, but for sure we will fight for really good positions in a lot of races and of course my goal will be to finish much more times on the podium and to fight for victories.”
Quartararo said he wanted to focus more on race pace than outright speed during race weekends in 2020, as he admitted he is “struggling” over long runs.
He topped all three days of the Sepang test, going fastest on Friday on the 2019-spec Yamaha before taking delivery of the 2020-spec M1 for the second and third days.
Despite his headline-grabbing times on the new bike, Quartararo admitted he was not as comfortable on the new M1 as he was with last year’s bike.
He managed six poles and seven other front-row starts, and regularly showed that speed throughout practice sessions later in the year.
However, he was unable to convert any of those into victories, and said he now needs to spend more time preparing for races during practice sessions in 2020 as his one-lap speed is not in doubt.
“Honestly, my goal has changed a little bit,” said Quartararo after the test in Malaysia.
“[I want to] not always be – like in free practice – trying to be first, but just try to work more on the [race] pace.
“OK, during this test I was first, but we need to work more on the pace because we are struggling in this area.
“[I need to] just keep working on the pace because we know that on one lap we are fast.”