abio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli carried their positive form through into qualifying practice for the Qatar GP, securing second and third row starts respectively for tomorrow night’s opening race of the MotoGP season. It was a special Saturday night at Losail for PETRONAS Yamaha SRT, because on hand to witness the outstanding performances was none other than five-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton, who keenly followed every movement and technical instruction from inside the team box.
Both PETRONAS Yamaha SRT riders went into FP3 determined to protect the provisional Q2 positions they earned on Friday, and they achieved their goal in style before completing further work on their race settings during FP4.
Before MotoGP qualifying got underway, the team were visited by Lewis Hamilton, who was delighted to meet the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team riders. The three PETRONAS motorsport stars were able to exchange their views and thoughts on racing, as well as swapping helmets. The British driver then spent the rest of the evening as a keen spectator within the team garage, urging on Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo on track.
The decisive Q2 session saw the PETRONAS Yamaha SRT pair secure standout results, with Quartararo qualifying fifth fastest for his MotoGP debut thanks to a best time of 1’53.946 – set on his sixth of seven laps. As a result Fabio now holds the best rookie result in qualifying since 2008. Morbidelli, meanwhile, will start from the third row in eighth place after setting a 1’54.236 on his last lap of the session, giving him a strong chance tomorrow night.
The next appointment for the MotoGP riders will be the Warm-Up at 3.40pm local time, with the first race of the season due to start at 8.00pm, when an historic dream will finally come true for the PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team.
Fabio Quartararo, 5th – 1’53.946
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
“I felt really good in Q2, I was clearly on the limit on my second run. I am really happy to have lapped inside 1’54 and I hope I can be in the fight tomorrow. Our race pace is very good and the fast lap too, so I am very satisfied with the job we have done so far. The race is going to be fast, because the riders at the front have a very strong pace and they are really quick, but I will try to stick with them and above all finish the race, which is very important.
I am really happy to have met a person who has been my idol in Formula One for years, and especially to be able to swap helmets with him. I would love to make it to an F1 Grand Prix, I am a big fan of the series and I try not to miss a single race. Lewis Hamilton is a great driver, I am sure I would love it on a motorcycle too. I wish him the best of luck for his season.”
Franco Morbidelli, 8th – 1’54.236
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
“Q2 was a good session for me, it was important for tomorrow to get on the front three rows of the grid. We have to decide which tyre compound is the best for the race, but luckily in terms of the setting of the bike I feel comfortable, so we’ll see tomorrow. My objective for the race is to stay with the front guys for as long as possible and then we’ll see what happens from there.
It was an amazing experience to spend some time in the box with such an incredible Formula 1 World Champion as Lewis Hamilton. It was wonderful to see how humble he is and what a great person he is. I would love to visit him now at a Formula 1 race.”