Fabio Quartararo won his first MotoGP world title on Sunday after his closest rival Francesco Bagnaia crashed out of the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix.
Bagnaia, who was 52 points behind Quartararo with three GPs including this race remaining, was comfortably leading when he fell with just four laps left to hand the Frenchman his country’s first ever MotoGP championship.
Yamaha rider Quartararo, 22, now leads Bagnaia by 65 points meaning the Frenchman can no longer be caught by his Ducati rival and guarantees a first riders’ title for his team since 2015 and a first ever for his nation.
“It’s not the way I would have liked to win this championship but it’s not the only race we’ve won,” he said to Sky Sport Italia.
“It’s been incredible and I think I performed so well this year thanks to Pecco (Bagnaia) who has really pushed me hard… I’m really happy.”
Quartararo broke down in tears as his family sung his praises during the interview, carried out in Italian, covering his face to stop himself crying too hard on national television.
His win comes in his third season in MotoGP, the first with Yamaha’s factory team after two years with the SRT satellite outfit.
In the 16 races he has contested this season, he has claimed 10 podiums, including five victories.
Quartararo surged from 15th on the starting grid to finish fourth on Sunday behind race winner Marc Marquez, who had been pursuing Bagnaia for almost the entire race.
Marquez’s Honda teammate Pol Espargaro was second and Italian rider Enea Bastianini of Ducati came third.
“By the time that he (Bagnaia) fell, I had already given up, I was thinking I’ll be finishing second, but luck was on our side,” said Marquez, who also won the Grand Prix of the Americas in the last round.
Marquez, 28, has been slowing returning to his best after missing almost all last season and the first two races of this campaign after breaking his right arm, which he flexed in triumph as he crossed the line.
This win more important than the one in Austin,” he added.
“OK, it was a win, but this is a circuit where I’ve had problems in the past and I wanted a podium somewhere with a lot of right turns.”
Italian rider Bagnaia’s job was made harder just three laps into the race when his teammate Jack Miller, who started from second on the grid, skidded off the track.
The Australian was protecting him from attacks from six-time MotoGP champion Marquez.
However, after starting from pole position, and with the win he needed in his sights, Bagnaia flew off the track to hand the title to Quartararo and a third win of the season to Marquez.
Rossi waves goodbye
Sunday’s race was also Valentino Rossi’s last MotoGP in Italy ahead of retirement at the end of the season, and he placed a creditable 10th on his final bow at his home track of Misano.
The Italian icon was waved off by his adoring fans, who displayed a banner which read “It’s been wonderful” as the seven-time MotoGP champion received a trophy for his achievements in the sport.
“Thanks for all the support over all these years. It’s been a long run and it’s been great,” Rossi said to the crowd.
He joked that his race went so well after a poor final season that he might not even go to the final two races of his career, and urged his fans to support the “young and good Italian riders who ride in MotoGP”.