Reigning MotoGP world champion Fabio Quartararo insisted Thursday he remained calm and unfazed by a string of a poor results that has thrown the title race wide open.
The Frenchman has taken just eight points on his Yamaha in the last three races, allowing Italy’s Francesco Bagnaia on a Ducati to close within two points of at the top of the standings with three grands prix left.
After 17 races, five riders are within 40 points and all in contention, with 75 still up for grabs.
Quartararo finished a disastrous 17th at a wet Thailand a fortnight ago and was so frustrated he refused to speak to the media, for which he apologised on Thursday.
“I expected a much better race of course,” he said. “We made a mistake from the beginning, starting with a really high (tyre) pressure.
“At the end of the race it was tough. I took the decision not to talk to the media. I apologise to all the people who were in Thailand. It was especially tough, I had no feeling.”
With Bagnaia finishing third, both riders agreed the title fight was “just beginning” at Phillip Island in Australia this weekend.
“We have to think about the championship now, but actually I want to take it race by race because it might be the end (of the season), but it is like the beginning of the championship,” said the Frenchman.
After challenging for the world title in 2020 and winning it last year, Quartararo said the experience could prove invaluable as the season races to a finale.
“Having the title from last year brings me a lot of confidence and much more experience,” he said.
“So of course the experience of the last two years has helped me a lot to be calm in this situation.”
Bagnaia, who surged into contention after taking 36 points from the last three races, agreed that it felt like the season was just beginning.
“Like Fabio said, it is like we are now starting the championship and we have five riders with the possibility to win the title,” he said.
“For sure, me and Fabio have more possibilities, but the others are not so far behind and we know this year that everything can change.
“But I think out potential is very high, we are in a good moment and we should use it.”
Spain’s Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) is within 20 of Quartararo, while Italian Enea Bastianini (Ducati) remains just 39 adrift with in-form Australian Jack Miller (Ducati) a point further back.
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