MotoGP: Why Petronas’ Smooth Italian could inherit the MotoGP Throne in 2021
Franco Morbidelli is lining up to be a major threat in 2021, here’s why.
2020 has not been a fantastic year for Yamaha, they’ve suffered from age-old issues regarding rear tyre grip and a 15kp/h top speed deficit rearing it’s ugly head again, as well as everything from fuel pump problems to brake issues, resulting in Maverick Viñales literally abandoning his YZR M1 at 140mph mid-race in Austria. However, in the midst of all of this difficulty, one man has constantly displayed his cool head and smooth, ice-cold riding style; that man is Franco Morbidelli.
The Petronas man has really had an excellent season when gauged against the wider context of Yamaha’s issues, he was able to march to the runners up medal with incredible consistency, beaten only by Joan Mir overall. Despite riding a 2019 M1 (the oldest equipment of any Yamaha rider), the Italian notched up three wins this season.
He dominated at Misano, whilst picking up very impressive wins in Aragon and Valencia, battling down to the very last corner against Jack Miller who described him as ‘impossible to overtake’ because Morbidelli knew where Jack was at all occasions, blocking him at the exact moment Miller went to pass, providing a hugely strong defence. Morbidelli’s win count was only matched by SRT teammate Fabio Quartararo in achieving three wins in such an utterly hectic season.
Morbidelli has seriously impressed in 2020.
The most impressive quality of Franco that has been highlighted, especially by this season, is his remarkable consistency and level-headedness. Whilst he has been forced to retire from the occasional race here and there, when Morbidelli is in ‘racing mode’, he doesn’t look out of place, striking similarities to Jorge Lorenzo’s silky smooth riding style. In fact, during his win in Valencia, Morbidelli was able to usurp and hold off Jack Miller’s Pramac Ducati Desmosedici, despite inferior top speed and grip. Indeed, this season, Morbidelli has arguably been the one Yamaha rider to truly make the best of a less-than-ideal situation with the Iwata manufacturer.
It has been reported that Morbidelli has requested a factory-spec M1 for the 2021 season, a move which would bring him into line with his new Petronas teammate and mentor, 9 x champion Valentino Rossi. If Yamaha are able to finally make the requisite improvements to the M1, and finally crack the puzzle that has eluded them for 4 years, then it is very difficult to see how Morbidelli is not seriously within the title mix for 2021.
Outside of the GSX-RR Suzuki, the Yamaha is still the best handling and turning bike on the grid. If Morbidelli can get his gloves on some seriously needed improvements to the M1, then it’s perfectly arguable that Franco Morbidelli will be a serious title challenger for the 2021 MotoGP crown.
Featured image – www.motogp.com