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Quartararo: Taking Rossi's MotoGP place at Yamaha a "huge responsibility"

MotoGP championship leader Fabio Quartararo says the responsibility of taking Valentino Rossi’s place at the factory Yamaha squad in 2021 was “huge” due to the expectation of results.

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After a storming rookie campaign in 2019 with Petronas SRT on Yamaha’s ‘B-spec’ M1, in which he scored seven podiums and six poles, Quartararo was signed by the Japanese marque to its factory team for 2021 at the very start of last year.

PLUS: The Rossi replacement who's become the MotoGP leader Yamaha needed 

With Maverick Vinales also being retained, Quartararo’s signing came at the expense of Rossi, who served 15 seasons with Yamaha’s factory team – winning four of his seven premier class titles for the marque.

Though Quartararo was adamant last year that he “can’t replace” Rossi, the fact Yamaha wasn’t willing to wait for Rossi to decide his own future in order to bat off interest from Ducati in Quartararo was significant.

After an inconsistent 2020 with SRT owing to a difficult Yamaha bike, Quartararo has been in the form of his grand prix career so far in 2021, winning four races – Doha, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands – and taking a 34-point lead into the summer break.

Speaking exclusively to Autosport, Quartararo says he hasn’t felt any added pressure since stepping up to the factory Yamaha team but concedes the responsibility of taking Rossi’s place was big.

“Yes, I think for me about the pressure, I think it becomes something normal,” Quartararo began.

“I think I had pressure all my life and right now I feel it’s something normal.

“So, let’s say I’m used to it.

Race winner Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Race winner Fabio Quartararo, Yamaha Factory Racing

Photo by: Dorna

“For sure there will arrive a moment where it’s much more if you are fighting in one race for the championship but, at the moment, I feel the pressure is the same and normal.

“And the responsibility is huge. Taking the place of Valentino, everyone was waiting for me to make great results and everything.

“But I’m there, I think I’m doing a really great job and I feel that the team is happy about not only me, but about my crew, about the way we are working, the atmosphere in the team in both sides with the mechanics is good.

“So, all the team is working on a proper way, and I think this is helping a lot.”

After a tough end to his 2020 season, in which he went from leading the championship to eighth in the space of the last six races, Quartararo worked with a sports psychologist over the winter.

No stranger to such a move, Quartararo explained how this has helped him in 2021.

“Honestly, I’ve been only two times since November 2020, but that’s enough for me,” he said.

“My main goal was for him to help me to stay calm, he gave me some exercises that I do before the practices or when I feel I need to do these exercises.

“So, I think at that moment for me it’s just a reminder that when I’m angry or unhappy, I just do these exercises and it’s keeping me calm.

“It’s nothing more. It takes less than five seconds to make the exercise, so I can do it whenever – even on the bike.

“So, it’s quite easy and I feel like it’s just helping me to stay calm.

“And then the path of maturity and experience, I take it from last year and I realised during the winter what I needed to work on.

“But more than working with a psychologist, it was just [finding] a way to keep me calm.”

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