Diego Gubellini Interview: On Fabio Quartararo, Battling With The Ducatis, And Developing The Yamaha

Diego Gubellini talking to Fabio Quartararo on the grid at the Red Bull Ring in Austria
Diego Gubellini talking to Fabio Quartararo on the grid at the Red Bull Ring in Austria

Fabio Quartararo missed out on the 2022 MotoGP title by a handful of points. The advantage Pecco Bagnaia had going into the final round was too great to overcome at Valencia. Given the lack of horsepower the 2022 Yamaha M1 had, it was impressive that Quartararo took the championship down to the final race.

Quartararo's feat was down in no small part to his crew chief, Diego Gubellini. The Italian, who was paired with the Frenchman in what was then the Petronas Yamaha satellite squad and moved up to the factory Monster Energy Yamaha team with him, helped Quartararo extract every ounce of performance from the M1.

I spoke to Gubellini on the Thursday before the final race, looking back at the 2022 season and how he and Quartararo worked to get the best out of the Yamaha M1. He talked about his role as crew chief, maximizing the speed of the Yamaha, and his role in the development of the 2023 machine.

But first, I started off asking about the 2022 championship, and the fact that Fabio Quartararo still have a very small chance to retain his MotoGP crown.

Fabio Quartararo on the grid at Valencia, with Diego Gubellini to his right

Diego Gubellini: Yes, it's very small. It's not only related to our result, it basically depends a lot on what Bagnaia wants to do in the race. It's clear that if he races just to bring a few points home and be sure, then there is not much to do than just try to win the race. But we will see. We have a chance, so we will play for it.

Q: If you have one chance, you don't have very many decisions to make, all you have to do is try to win?

DG: Actually, we are here to try to do the best race we can. This is always the target. And every race you try to do your best, this is always the target we have, and sometimes you can win, sometimes not. Of course, this race, trying to get the small chance we have, you have to win. But on the other hand, many times this year we have not had the tools in hand to beat our competitors. So in this case we have to just try to bring home the best result possible.

Q: It feels like you have been fighting with one hand tied behind your back all season, you didn't have the engine to take on the Ducatis. As a crew chief, how do you approach that?

DG: It's difficult to say, because the basic strategy doesn't change so much, because anyway, in the race weekend, you have to prepare the bike and the rider as best you can to be as fast as possible. But then every race it changes, because there are some tracks where for example you cannot push full gas because of the tires, or because of the power. So then you have to change the strategy a little bit. But my job, the work I do during the weekend doesn't change so much, with this situation with a lot of bikes faster than our bike. So maybe it changes the final results a lot, but it doesn't change the approach.

Q: Quartararo said he had to be on the front row to be able to compete, did that mean you had to change your plan to focus more on qualifying?

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Comments

"After briefly considering more horsepower and a Jr Team we have instead gone a different development path. None of Quartararo’s clothing will have shoelaces or belts, and he won't be able to speak with anyone not wearing Blue ever. We've brought in a specialist from F1 to translate "Welcome Toprak" into Turkish for Morbidelli's side of the garage."

(I sincerely feel for them, this rulebook allowing shapeshifters/extensive aero leaves their project at a standstill. Honda and KTM are hamstrung by the flexy 2018 front Michelin lingering, tough road to hoe). 

Past the time to learn to enjoy the fight within the Red Astronaut Armada plus occasional non-Duc guests. ...Where will Bastiannini begin the 2023 Season points? (Excellent) ...Can Martin trancend his wild fire? (No) ...Is A.Marquez going to join the pointy end? (Fleetingly) ...Is Bezzecchi coming forward? (Small step). ...Who can challenge the Factory Ducatis? (Marc Marquez) ...Are you sure that is the only rider? (I think so) ...What say you?

... a disappointingly anodyne interview from what should be more of a three-dimensional paddock protagonist.

If/when Fabio finishes outside the top-5 next season he will take Aleix's seat at Aprilia in 2025, with the agreement signed by July 2024, if not sooner. Toprak spends the entirety of 2024 picking gravel out of his underwear, but figures it out just in time for the new Michelin tire construction to change everyone's riding style to favor straight-line braking and turning with the rear again.

Next year is the first of Pecco/Enea basically alternating championships for 3-4 years, Marc plays spoiler in at least one season but only in determining which Ducati rider wins the title. He will not finish higher than 3rd in the championship, fully fit but with all the usual Honda box drama, and leaves for KTM in 2025 after ejecting Puig and Yokoyama before 2024 and browbeating Honda into a heap.

Pedro Acosta wins the MotoGP championship for KTM in 2026.

SATX west has a clear view! Beautiful. Always enjoy someone putting it out there. 

I'm putting MM93/Honda as back on the gas into the Bagnaia/Bastiannini mix.

Hey, did you put in a 2023 Top5 & Indep yet SATX? Stick it here and I will add you!

:)

 

Wavey Dave, enjoy post-Solstice over in the UK. Hang in there, we'll be racing again soon!

Are you enjoying goving me a hard time? I like poking you in the ribs, we disagree well eh?

(Yamaha next year, is your outlook fluxuating or steady? What do you see coming? Will Quarty challenge the Championship again or slide back to 3rd?)

I hope I put forward my opinion in a well structured and polite manner but I know I often fail in the last part.....and we all fail in the first part. There is nothing personal in it. I think two opposing views can lead to a more enlightened third position but my heels can dig deep :)

Best wishes to you and all members as always.

Yamaha ? I think they will produce a very nice bike, they have a very nice rider. Hopefully they can have two very nice riders this coming season. We know Franco can do good and I hope we get to see it more. In my mind there is nothing to say that any bike will win. We only have the usual contenders. As always it will be the bike and rider that produce the best average result over the season that will take the crown...that's just the math of it. I think of Aprilia and their downturn in form during the fly away races. The change in rear tyre spelling doom for their chances. That kind of change is all it takes for Yamaha to be nowhere...or be right up there and at the front. The woefully slow Yamaha of 2022 came very close to beating the Ducati of Pecco in Austria. In other words, it was not and was never woefully slow in the motor department. The field is very close, the engines are very close and small changes in the circumstance lead to big changes in points. Yamaha will produce a good bike. Their much maligned slow development speed will not produce a bad egg, it might not produce enough of whatever but at least in Fabio's hands it will up there. The same applies to Ducati, KTM, Aprilia, Honda and Suz....dam.

Wavey Dave, enjoy post-Solstice over in the UK. Hang in there, we'll be racing again soon!

Are you enjoying giving me a hard time? I like poking you in the ribs, we disagree well eh?

:)

(Yamaha next year, is your outlook fluxuating or steady? What do you see coming? Will Quarty challenge the Championship again or slide back to 3rd?)

I see Honda back on the gas right now and Yamaha hesitating or worse.

  1. Pecco (5 wins)
  2. Bestia (4 wins)
  3. Martin (2 wins & top independent)
  4. MM (3 wins)
  5. FQ (2 wins and it pains me to write this as much as it pains you to read it; I wish I were wrong…)

Other riders taking wins: Binder, Maverick, Luca, Bezz, and ZARCO.

Underperforming riders: Miller (again, I wish I were wrong), Oliveira, Mir, Frankie, Alex Marquez

Riders exceeding expectations: R. Fernandez, Rins

Riders I almost forgot about/performing exactly to expectations: Pol, A. Fernandez, Aleix, Taka, Diggia

 

☆☆☆☆☆

Welcome Ben! Appreciate your mutterings and looking fwd to more. Sincerely cool calls there throughout. Bold on Martin, and less optimistic re Oliveira than me. I don’t think we are ever going to see a Zarco back flip in MotoGP --- aside from when he got hit in the calves from behind by a crashing bike in a gravel trap in 2022...a back flip did HIM!

Super particularly interested in your clear crystal ball on Rins/Honda beating Mir/Honda!! I think I see it too, Rins has just grown a lot as a rider. Blossomed. His style is a bit more "throw the bike around" aggressive, Mir more smooth. But then again, has the pressure--->unforced error crashaholic Rins really been trancended? The Suzuki was a confidence building high feel bike, this Honda though "is trying to kill you." Mir was injured last Season, obscuring his potential. Factory bike and personnel vs LCR to account for? It won't be "Rins's bike." My guess is Rins starts fast, and Mir builds up pace to approximately match him. Or will just one of them unlock the Honda secret? (Oh god, it could be NEITHER and Marquez just shows us all the end ceiling of their careers). Both are REALLY great riders, different "flywheel weight." Mir will have more pressure don't you think? Staying uninjured on a Honda and mid pack is a sad expectation right now.

(List of Readers picks are under David's 2022-11-07 "Champ Points, Valencia GP" article until it gets a re-post...likely at 1st Test of 2023 or relevant MotoGP bike news in January. Open until Thurs evening of Round 1)

^ Sing it!

Ben's crystal balls vs WaveyD's everBlue optimism...

"FIGHT!" (Seeing a button masher video game). Gotta tell ya, Yamaha COULD surprise us by bringing some motor. But with this rulebook and F tire, can it be enough even with fit Alien Quartararo?

Tough times for Japanese inline 4's. 

Firstly, nice interview David, great content.
 

Shrink -> cannot be forgotten that the rule book was the same for all, as it is every season. Ducati stole a march on the field in a direction Yamaha could have taken also....to a greater or lesser degree. 

^ You make sense Wave. 2016 Off Season or so the Rulebook hit a good stride. I LOVED how Dorna "grew a backbone" and took more control establishing bike spec rules. 2017 through 2020 or so. The electronics and software had been reigned in. Honda and Yamaha had not been agreeable to say the least, but Dorna did the difficult thing, and well. Swiftly and assertively. What did we get? 

I have seen the same thing needing to happen, swinging the other way in that Ducati will hate it but - adjust the rules for everyone. This time re something else, two related things that went too far. We all know exactly what!

Michelin has brought great tires! But negligent/on their laurels about bringing the TWENTY NINETEEN for fooks sake front tire. Dorna is responsible, erring on keeping testing needs down whilst adding events/tracks and Sprints etc. We had a pandemic too. I don’t blame Ducati, they've been brilliant. I understand difficulties faced by Dorna, their job is tough and landscape nuanced and complex. But...yeah, Dorna blew it and continues to. Makes my stomach go sour. 

:(

All true. I think Honda had a big problem/advantage with their bike. No matter what they did, no matter what Dorna did, the kid pulled an ace from his sleeve. Hard to see faults beyond the bling of a trophy after trophy after....my god, remember 2019 ? I take note of the 'big big talent' Fabio comment. The Yamaha will not need 10% up...maybe 2 or 3 is enough with El Diablo on the bike. I think Fabio has learnt a lot about himself this year. He's learnt how much he can produce. Why is it only December ?!!! Next year might be good even if the title is a red certainty. December ?!!

I believe David Emmett may be the closest thing we have to MotoGP Santa Claus. 

Santa Krop, I haven't been a very good boy this year. A bit lazy and avoidant, farting around here instead of working. But I have been a very good racing fan, and this is what I am sending to your North Pole Winter home...can we please have something from this list this year?

Ban all ride height devices after the start. Feel free to toss holeshatters too if you want.

A new front Michelin that has a step firmer construction.

Increase Wldcards allowed from 3 per Manu per Season to 5. And can you encourage them for riders like Toprak? He has been a VERY good boy again this year.

I know you REALLY love Gigi, but I am a little bit confused that you have been giving SO much to Ducati the last few years. And was Marc Marquez really that naughty that you had to take his tires AND HRC's chassis engineering planning? No, it must be someone else. Puig?

Has Brad Binder sent you his Christmas list? If he hasn't, can you please bring him a Michelin front? Very very good boy, that BB33 eh Santa Krop?

(Was "one of the Suzuki GP bikes plus spares before the crusher" too much to ask for last year because it didn't fit in your sleigh? Or did some other person ask for it before me? Please tell me it went to someone like JINX and not WaveyD...he has been very naughty about Yamaha and I bet he secretly longs for a damn Panigale).

P.S. thank you SO MUCH for the brand new World Supersport Next Gen Bikes you brought last year! I love it, how ever did you know when I didn’t even ask? It is almost PERFECT! 

As a stocking stuffer, could you please bring a good rider on a Paul Denning GSXR750? Suzuki deserves something nice. And give my Scottish pal Mackenzie a CBR750RR to test in Summer? Can Triumph have extra revs, 50cc's of displacement, or just give Manzi some luck and less crashes? They provided all those lovely Moto2 engines and all, so a bit of top end power isn't too much to ask is it? Surely it isn't all gone after visiting Italy and Japan. Oh, and if any other good fast Italian or Spanish boy has asked for an Aprilia 960 Twin to race, I sure hope you can fit that in your sleigh. And and...

Does your website want cookies?

;)

Cozy peaceful Winter Solstice folks

First, Merry Christmas to you and yours, David! And to the Paddock Pass Podcast crew.

...this from the nosebleed seats, and posted with great respect. (luv ya bud  :P )

1) I don't agree that Michelin has brought great tyres. I think they have quality control issues, and were very wise to muzzle the riders. The teams were just trying to control the pressures during the race as they knew how, but for Michelin to lock that down too...

2)  How does Stefan Bradl still have a job as Honda's test rider? Just curious, as I don't dislike him. But... the results?

 

i remember mat mladin saying that a test rider who is not as fast as him is kinda useless, because he doesn't know how the bike reacts in that last .001, which is where he (mladin) lives.

Agreed LAH test riders for race teams need to be fast. At least fast enough to push the bike close to the limit.

Any rider rapid enough to get close to 0.001 of a second (to race pace? or lap record time?) should be racing.

Bradl is somewhat slower than Marc Marquez. Isn't everyone? Except our three most recent champions.

Cal Crutchlow isn't as fast as Fabio Q but he is closer than the Japanese Yamaha test riders. Not that Cal seems to get much opportunity to ride the M1 anyway. Get your act together Yamaha & try harder.

Dani Pedrosa can ride rather well to. KTM needs more than a good test rider. But they are close enough to win on rare occasions.

Michele Pirro can ride a motorbike but not as fast as Pecco & etc. Seems to do the job well enough for Ducati.

Lorenzo Savadori may not be quick enough to push the progress at Aprilia now the RSGP is quite competitive already.

Finding tenths and hundredths of seconds gets harder the faster the bikes get.

Dorna won't even let them test very much anyway.

https://www.autosport.com/motogp/news/honda-restructures-its-motogp-tech...

Off season speculation? Maybe, seems like some of this info is correct. Written by German Garcia Casanova.

Giacomo Guidotti moving from LCR to become Joan Mir's new crew chief. 

Way down at the bottom of the article "(HRC) Technical director Takeo Yokoyama will take up a new role at Honda’s Tokyo headquarters and will not be at the circuits during the MotoGP season in 2023." That is news.

That is a moderately polite way of saying, "You screwed up and you're fired." Get out the seppuku knife.

^ Off Season fun! Spicy.

:)

Santa Krop visited Sito Pons early this year. He was just acquitted of several tax fraud issues today. Prosecution sought up to 24 years in prison and more than €12 million in fines for six tax fraud offences, by both the Spanish and Catalan authorities. "Monaco" and "Great Britain" residence filings basically. 

Merry Christmas Pons! 

Steve Apical, hope you are right that HRC is making changes up above. Thanks for the link. Interesting!! Promising? 

CMF re Bradl, much wondering what is going on at Honda Racing. I just don't know! Maybe it is about what ISN'T going on? A generalized malaise and negligence. 

Bradl is fast enough - he has the pace. Experience too. But, German primary language plus good English...surrounded by Spaniards, trying to get heard and responded to by Japanese. Is that a barrier? Bradl is a quieter and seemingly unassertive personae, but should we point at him? I wonder if coordinating decision makers are basically listening. Breakdown between compartmentalized factions of the program, and failure to move past an old formula bike + context (Bridgestones, healthy Skittle Alien, pre-Gigi can't turn Red bike, et al) to adapt.

For a Manu I have disliked so much, I am sure wishing them well! (And THOUGHT they HAD, pre-season the Revolution bike looked fast! How could the front end feel end up worse? Genuinely puzzled).

Not inclined to pinpoint Bradl particularly. For sure, the Covid Pandemic impacted the Japanese more and longer than the Europeans. Inclined to put some blame there. But mostly HRC brass, and a Honda culture of pride that doesn't prioritize rider/crew chief and maybe non-Japanese views and needs.

Perhaps they need a Furusawa san, a dose of humility, a mild change in direction of plan for the bike, and the healthy Marc Marquez that is here. 

Marc/Honda vs Quartararo/Yamaha for next year? Find it easy to call? 

Blue is signalling more of the same, little change. Two bikes. A maybe on an increment of HP gain. TONS going on at Honda! Rins and Mir too. The program looks motivated.

Quarty had a difficult go last season, and took several various blows. Marc? Waxing.

Orange? Dunno. Black? May have yet another step underway. But...D U C A T I !

(Oh dear lord, are there TWO Italian Red Rocketing Astronauts blasting off from the word go now? Sheezus).

I think here comes Honda, biggest next step of any manufacturer. 2022 was a stumble, recovered from right about NOW. Just in time for healthy Marc. Boom.

MM93 vs the 2 Reds for 2023 Top 3, Quarty just behind.

"RIDER OF THE YEAR"

Some journos seem to pick one around this time. People have strong feelings about it? 

Is it "best rider?" 

"Most impressive?"

"Achieved the most success?"

"I like them most right now?"

Pecco Bagnaia scored the most points. He rose to the occasion, improving his racing after a LONG tentative adjustment to the big bikes and discovering the key to the Ducati lock. It has to be him, right?

But wait, he was on the 2022 Ducati with the 2021 engine, best bike out there. And he failed to score points what, 5 Rounds?! He's very human, no Alien...an Astronaut.

In a year in which Japanese bikes were outclassed, and "no one seems to want to win this Championship" it could be argued that it isn't Pecco. Right? Front tires overheated, passing a squatting Ducati missile was near impossible!

Fabio Quartararo, surely its him. He over rode the grease out of a dramatically underpowered Yamaha, the only rider doing anything on it. He was the best rider out there. The only Alien. If every single rider were on a Suzuki, I think he wins. In a year of great adversity, he persevered and excelled. Rider of the year!

But Marc Marquez is on a 2nd or 3rd Lazarus comeback. Unsinkable. So impressive what he did on an unrideable bike. "The Honda tries to kill you." Most crashes, lots of terrible highsides. Never the same bike twice, changing and lost in the woods. Dramatic story, and he impressed me the most.

Oh, but BASTIANNINI was a wonder! The story of the year was the Ducati Armada. He stood out, different than the rest. Of all the MotoGP riders of 2022 it was Enea Bastiannini that accelerated his bike and career the most. In Lavender-blue soft hues with wee customer 4th Team Gresini on last year's bike?! Wow! 2022 was when Bastiannini emerged. He has made my heart hum a brand new tune! Rider Of The Year.

Wee Aprilia, teensy project and budget, they took a CRT almost Superbike to a Title challenger...with feisty mortal human Aleix Espargaro at the helm. He has clawed his way up a steep climb! Against all odds. I bought a Black jersey. I sent one to Cloverleaf. HE sent one to Ivanhoe. Is there anyone not in love with Aprilia in 2022? Wow. Love an underdog? A.Espagaro, "Rider Of The Year."

You know though, one rider REALLY stands out for me as possibly the best rider anywhere right now and we haven't EVER seen him on a competitive bike. The King Of Sunday. Making an uncompetitive bike sing. And he is AFRICAN of all places to come from to GP! I really love the guy, and many do too. If you are a KTM fan, love an underdog, or look for respect of brilliance...Brad Binder?

TWO races were won by Miguel Oliveira. Dry, no funny business. Very intelligent, quite a gentleman. Got himself a BlackAqua bike, and looks to be in launch mode. Any Portuguese MotoGP fans reach over and point his way?

Outright single fastest blazing lap of fire with hot sauce in his pants? Jorge Martin appeared to have been hit by lightning at several points in the 2022 season. He was the outright fastest of all the riders, did you see such a height of speed from anyone else? Such talent! "My rider of the year."

But...yadda yadda and whatnot forever. "For me, it will always be Valentino Rossi, greatest of all time even if he was crashing Audis." In a year like 2022 perhaps the "Rider Of The Year" exercise is an uninspiring one. 

I'm handing it to Gigi Dall'Igna. He won 2022. 

No one had more pressure on him than 63, all of Ducati--and Italy--on his shoulders, and a pack of equally well-equipped Ducati riders on his tail. (it will be interesting how Basto handles the factory pressure in 2023, vs. satellite this past year)

The Aleix story is a thing of beauty, but he exceeded expectations that were pretty low.

Brad Binder! Sunday man. I always root for him, what a professional. And always on the road, no home round, unlike the majority of the grid who spend half the season only an hour or two from their houses.

Cheers all.

^ St Steve, hiya! Zoomed right in on your Bastiannini and pressure consideration. 

He appears OUTSTANDING in this particular area. Super cool head. Warm heart. Relaxed and soft as a personal baseline. AND laser focused on the racing on track. Very well differentiated, casually independent. Lots of ease. Refreshing!

One might well wonder next, if he is that relaxed and chill will he have the fire and undying hunger to carry momentum and push push PUSH as one needs to be a Champion? 

Ennea looks like the real deal from here. I --think-- he is my favorite rider out there now. Neat guy, great attitude, has all the raw ingredients. Trajectory and timing look primo. REALLY outright fast. And he is on THE very fastest road racing motorcycle that has ever existed next year (I bought a Lavender EB23 shirt). I don't even like Ducati yet I WANT him to win. Shhh! Please keep my fanboy crush private.

Others feeling the same? 

...but you are talking about Bagnaia!

"Super cool head. Warm heart. Relaxed and soft as a personal baseline. AND laser focused on the racing on track. Very well differentiated, casually independent. Lots of ease. Refreshing!" 

That's Pecco.

Steve! :)

No disagreement that Bagnaia is focused, friendly and generally relaxed. But he is thinky. More complex. Vast data points in his awareness. Has a few strings attached here and there. Rather particular, fiddly. An Astronaut with a mild slow rise from the Earthly ground.

Bastiannini may have nothing to do with you-know-who, but reminds me of a you-know-who minus excessive ego. And one of a few with "that new cat-like flowy aggressive lotsa elbows" style AND a Factory Ducati. Ennea is currently on a steeper rise trajectory with plenty of torque and unspent fuel. Pecco isn't "naturally playing," he is heady analytic. Cooler, drier, intent. Running more lean. Italian yes, but not as from the expansive heated oily w a dash of garlic abdomen center plus fresh parmesan as EB23. Plenty spicy too.

I'm hungry!

Methinks David "Kropotkin" Emmett is the Prince of MotoGp Journos.

Rider of the year? Too hard!

As we know every rider in this class is very very good. All the riders except maybe Darryn Binder were awesome at times. Even Darryn had some impressive rides? In the rain somewhere iirc.

Aleix would get my vote had he not messed up real bad at Catalunya and squandered his one and only chance to win a Gp at home. Low point of the year right there, reminds me of a big mistake I made, so much sympathy for Aleix.

Jack Miller rode well, even after finding a horse's head in his motorhome. Jack continued to be a top team player despite knowing his time at Ducati corse was up. At least Jack Miller doesn't have to ride a Yamaha next season.

Alex Rins? OK Assen 2019 disappointment is behind me now and I am trying to move on. Great win at P.I. and Valencia. A.R. 42 is also the best. Good luck at Honda A.R. 42 and Joan Mir.

Maverick Vinales most improved? Well after a massive brain implosion at the RedFlagRing in 2021, this year reminded me Mav has plenty of talent for riding a fast motorcycle. Other skills may need more work.

Marco Bezzecchi best rookie by a long way. Second place once and only three DNFs. Better than many riders who finished higher than Bez in the championship.

Luca Marini, fastest lap at Aragon was a highlight, not even one podium. I had hoped for more.

Happy Hogmanay and a spectacular solstice to all.