Fabio Quartararo turns 22 on Tuesday. You will have reason to celebrate that you are getting older. To applaud two triumphs in three races and a haughty and incredible driving in Portugal, so perfect lap by lap, so fast, that he brought down those who chased him in search of victory on the Algarve circuit. Even the elegant Alex Rins, the only one who seemed to resist the rhythm of the fast lap. Until he fell seven laps from the end.
All the adulations that Quartararo received when, as a child, he began to break barriers and break precocious records – he was champion of Spain at 13 and made his World Cup debut at 15, a year earlier than allowed; his was an exception–, they begin to make sense now that his maturity as a pilot appears behind the facade of a superb teenager hooked on social networks. Fabio appears behind those tattoos with a message –Shhh … it reads on his index finger – after the catchy smile, the platinum blonde bangs or the football celebrations, like the one this Sunday imitating Cristiano Ronaldo. The scream was not heard. But it was intuited. The body tense. The overflowing joy. His career was capital.
The traffic light went out and the French went wrong. Like almost always. It is the weak point of the Yamaha. It already was last year, but, unlike then, this year the M1 responds at the end of a few corners and imposes its now aggressive and voracious handling. The tuning fork bike has long since ceased to be the delicate and gentle-driving machine that led Rossi and Lorenzo to victory; Viñales suffers with her (11th) one Sunday yes and no other – he still has rear grip problems – but it is not a problem for guys like Quartararo, who demands the front end and squeezes his bike in search of victory.
He is much less so now that he has worked this winter both on his body, lean, and on his mind, after assuming that it was he who let the 2020 World Cup escape due to the pressure of being a favorite with Márquez’s injury at the first exchange. The hours on the psychologist’s couch have resulted in two consecutive victories, in Doha and this Sunday in Portugal, which add him to the overall lead.
Quartararo, who had the pole position, saw how motorcycles passed him on the left and right to finish the first lap in sixth position. But he got the turbo very soon. In two turns it was fourth; in four, third; and in five seconds. He got behind Alex Rins, caught his breath and overtook him after nine laps. From then on the race became a yours-mine between the two, locked in a magnificent rally.
With 12 laps remaining, just as the equator of a 25-lap race was approaching, they opened with their marvelous driving a distance of 1.3 seconds over Mir, third, which would end up being impossible to recover. Nor when Zarco approached them, embroiled in another magnificent duel with the world champion before staying in one of the loopholes of a circuit that attended a good handful of crashes at full speed. When Zarco fell, as Rins had done a lap before and as Miller or Rossi would also do – the latter never bothered anyone, slow and lacking the spark he always had – Bagnaia appeared from the second row. But the distances with Quartararo, with more than four seconds of advantage in the lead, were insurmountable. And the Italian settled for fighting Mir for second place.
No one crossed the finish line, however, more excited than Marc Márquez did. The Honda rider finished seventh, 13 seconds behind the winner, in a race of pure survival. After nine months without racing or getting to 330 km / h. After a weekend in which he accumulated so much effort in a right arm lacking muscle, strength and power, still in full rehabilitation, that crossing the finish line was already an achievement. Everyone, rivals and fans, awaited his return. That of the rider who gave MotoGP an added emotion and unpredictability of such caliber that many came to expect the impossible: that someone who has not competed for almost a year would come back as if nothing had happened.
Upon arriving at the box, Márquez thanked his team for the applause with hugs. Half hugs. Sore hugs, an indication of the tremendous fatigue accumulated during the first weekend on the motorcycle since he fractured his right humerus in July of last year. He took off his helmet, sat down in the chair, and burst into tears. He was trying with slow gestures, suffocated, to loosen the muscles of his right arm. For a few minutes, pain and emotion were run over by the tear duct of the eight-time world champion.
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