The first part of the 2022 season has been strange for Yamaha: they started the season with a prototype whose development seemed to be behind them. Fabio Quartararo currently leads the general classification and is therefore in a good position to retain the scepter he acquired last year. But he’s fighting with his back against the wall, alone against everyone and with the M1, which is a high-precision weapon that only works in his hands, while other manufacturers this winter have developed prototypes that are faster than their shadow. But as the year passed, the French pilot still managed to raise the M1 to new heights. The most disconcerting thing is that the other three riders from the Iwata marque cannot even come close to Fabio’s level.
During pre-season testing, the Yamaha technical teams provided their riders with chassis upgrades compared to last season. He was first seen testing in Jerez at the end of last season. The area that changed was the area cut out on the main beam. The top line of the cutout was changed, but when riders tried it, they said they didn’t feel the big step forward they were expecting.
Yamaha obviously already anticipated this, and in this photo we see the chassis they brought in as a possible extra step.
Fabio Quartarara and Franco Morbidelli tried it, but their reviews were less than enthusiastic, as both felt it was generally too harsh and not in the direction they wanted.
What ended up happening was that Yamaha went back to their 2021 chassis, which is what the riders have been racing with so far in 2022. It’s not necessarily a step back, it just shows that the chassis was good enough for the 2021 season. that it took a bit more time for Yamaha’s technical teams to understand and improve it.
One of the big things Yamaha riders complained about was the lack of top speed. While Yamaha delivered a new, more powerful engine, all the riders said it wasn’t enough and they needed more. So when their version of the engine was frozen for a year, Yamaha improved in other ways, and one of them was in studying the aero side.
For the first time in several seasons, they brought an aerodynamic evolution and it was the biggest ever developed by the Iwata teams. More downforce certainly helped them in the tight, twisty spots, but made them even more vulnerable on the straights. To counter this, they brought another aerodynamic evolution.
So their latest evolution is very similar to last year’s, but on closer inspection the fins are slightly different. Gone is the large chin that jutted out in front of the air intake, and new side ribs have also been dropped. Franco Morbidelli used it at Mugello, but after also trying it in free practice, Fabio Quartarara decided against it and used a bigger package instead. He prefers the feel it creates in corners, but also when exiting corners.
When it comes to cornering, at least 3 out of 4 Yamaha riders say the Yamaha’s biggest problem is rear end grip. However, Fabio Quartararo is adamant the bike still has rear grip, it just takes a little time to find it, with the world champion saying the biggest drawback is a lack of speed.
Yamaha has a new swingarm and recently we saw Fabio Quartarara put it to good use and win races. This is a pretty serious redesign of the classic swing that they’ve been using for a few seasons now. This is the first major evolution brought by Yamaha’s technical teams that allows them to try and solve the rear grip problem, and for Fabio Quartararo at least, it seems to be working.
We’ve also seen Franco Morbidelli use it, but not as often yet.
This is not the only evolution of the swingarm that has been tested on the M1: the brand’s drivers have also been offered a carbon version. Franco Marbidelli put Yamaha’s first swingarm to good use, finishing 2nd in the world rankings in 2020 riding his 2019 M1 with a carbon swingarm. He was the only Yamaha rider who used it regularly, so maybe if he likes this new one, he can give him the key he needs. However, we haven’t seen him use it since testing it in Barcelona, instead opting to study the pendulum in the previous photo.
So Yamaha’s start to the 2022 season is surprising to say the least: they started the season with a clear power deficit, suggesting they would struggle, and that’s clearly what happened. Their first few races weren’t the most promising, but then Fabio Quartarara seemed to find a base of setups that worked. However, he’s the only one who can put this M1 to the fore at the moment, so that’s a real concern for Yamaha. Will the technical teams respond to the wishes of the one driver who can take their prototype to the top, or will they comply with the requests of three other drivers who are asking for the same thing? Only the future will tell!
Photo: Dorna Sports