Struggling world champion Fabio Quartararo warned his Yamaha team on Thursday that “we are not allowed to make mistakes” as the French rider looks to get his season back on course in Portugal.
Quartararo is still without a win in 2022 after four races and sits 17 points behind the surprise leader of the championship, Italy’s Enea Bastianini of Ducati-Gresini.
The 23-year-old French rider’s performances have been erratic.
He was ninth in the season-opener in Qatar, second in Indonesia and then eighth in Argentina and seventh last time out at the Grand Prix of the Americas.
However, the Algarve circuit, which kicks off the European loop of the series, is a happy hunting ground.
He was a comfortable winner in 2021 and is confident of a repeat performance as his Yamaha will be less handicapped by its lack of top speed on this circuit.
“In Portimao I want to fight for the podium and when I came here in April last year I won,” he said.
“I want to ride like that again, the goal is always to be first and do the best we can,” he added despite speculation in the paddock of tensions between him and his team.
He added to motorsport.com Thursday: “We are not allowed to make mistakes. If we want to fight for the championship, mistakes are not allowed.”
There have been two victories for the Italians of Ducati, one for Aprilia and one for Austrian outfit, KTM this season.
KTM can count on the local knowledge of Miguel Oliveira, the winner at Portimao in 2020 and this year in Indonesia.
But with KTM it’s often all or nothing. Oliveira is only ninth in the championship standings, behind his South African teammate Brad Binder who is sixth.
At Ducati, the satellite teams have put their factory colleagues in the shade.
Italian Francesco Bagnaia and Jack Miller of Australia have watched as 24-year-old Bastianini of Ducati-Gresnini has been a revelation.
Having made his MotoGP debut only last year after winning the Moto2 title in 2020, the Italian is five points ahead of Spaniard Alex Rins on Suzuki and 11 in front of Aleix Espargaro of Aprilia.
Bastianini admitted Thursday that he did not think “to be at the top for the first European race”.
But he feels that it will be difficult for him to keep the lead, as the weekend promises to be more difficult with wind and also rain expected on Friday for practice and Saturday for qualifying.
On the strength of a second place last year in Portugal, Bagnaia wants to make up for a difficult start to the season which has left him a distant 12th place in the championship despite starting the year as one of the favourites.
In Texas, he was only fifth.
On the Japanese side of the paddock, Suzuki seem the best placed with Rins and his compatriot Joan Mir, the 2020 world champion and fourth in the championship, 15 points behind Bastianini.
At Honda, six-time MotoGP champion Marc Marquez showed in Austin that he was back in full control with an impressive comeback to finish in sixth place after a poor start which saw him briefly relegated to the back of the race.
“The goal was to regain confidence and we achieved that,” said Marquez on Thursday.
The Spaniard had to skip Indonesia and Argentina following a heavy crash and intends to show that he can still win.
Portimao is a track “where you have to find the rhythm,” he said.
Another candidate for victory this weekend is Aprilia for whom Aleix Espargaro delivered a first ever MotoGP win in Argentina