Quartararo 'living the dream' after winning maiden MotoGP title
Fabio Quartararo is "living the dream" after becoming the first Frenchman to win the MotoGP title following an eventful Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
The 22-year-old, who is competing in just his third season, was crowned 2021 world champion after closest challenger Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of Sunday's race.
Bagnaia started from pole and was leading with five laps to go, only to come off his bike and effectively end his chances of catching Quartararo in the drivers' standings with two grands prix remaining.
Yamaha rider Quartararo still had to see out the race to pick up the three points needed to seal top spot and did that with a fourth-placed finish in Italy.
"It's amazing, right now I'm living the dream," said Quartararo. "It feels good to have my family with me and we will enjoy tonight and until the end of the season."
Quartararo's triumph, which ends Yamaha's six-year wait for a title, was achieved the hard way as he started the race in 15th after his worst ever qualifying session on Saturday.
He gradually made his way through the field after a slow start that saw him drop two more places, yet he was still fifth when Bagnaia crashed.
The Frenchman said on the eve of the race he expected the title battle to continue into the Grande Premio do Algarve next month and he felt the pressure at the start line.
"It was tough for me because I made a really bad start and I never experienced a MotoGP start at that far back," he said.
"I think our front tyre pressure goes so much up [in a pack]. When I braked, I had a lot of moments almost crashing, so to be close to the podium was amazing.
"It was a new experience, and also with the pressure of the championship I was feeling really bad this morning.
"Let's say I had pain in the belly, it is the first time that I found it difficult to eat before the race, so it was a big day and we managed to be world champion.
"After this I think the weight of trying to be world champion, from now, will totally lose the pressure and I can enjoy the two last races."
Bagnaia had just stretched away from eventual race winner Marc Marquez when he crashed and cut a desolate figure at the end of the race.
The Italian, who was one of the first to congratulate Quartararo, denied losing focus with the winning line in sight and also backed the call to use hard front tyres.
That was a decision that also cost Ducati team-mate Jack Miller, who crashed early on at the same corner as Bagnaia.
"Medium for me was worse than soft; soft was already on the limit yesterday and this morning, so the hard was the correct choice," Bagnaia said.
"The only thing is with the hard you just need to push every single lap like hell, to let the tyre be hot.
"As for the crash, that was not because I lost concentration. I was pushing – it was winning or gravel, and I tried all to achieve this win.
"I'm happy about my performance. Of course I'm a bit frustrated about the result because I think we were deserving of more.
"But we just try to be always more competitive, and for next year we are for sure in a good way."