After two tough races in Qatar, Franco Morbidelli returns to the front of the field.
Franco Morbidelli has returned to the front of the MotoGP field after two incredibly difficult races in Doha, it seemed he had left his fortunes in Europe and was forced to suffer some major misfortune in Qatar. Various issues completely destroyed the opening two races for him and stole a possible 50 points from him as he looked to continue his incredible 2020 form taking the runners up medal overall, very nearly winning the MotoGP title on a 1-year-old satellite bike.
We all know Franco is fast, you don’t have to listen to what I say here to know that the man is ridiculously quick on that Yamaha M1 and proved this in 2020 slogging a year old bike to P2 overall in the standings, he is also an ex-Moto2 World Champion taking the crown in 2017 against some top names including Thomas Luthi, Miguel Oliveira, Mattia Pasini and more so there was clearly more than meets the eye to see a rider of his pedigree either outside of the points or running very low down.
In race one in Doha he was met with a malfunctioning holeshot device that was unable to be disengaged. This issue was only spotted on the grid meaning he and his team had no time to fix it and he was forced to race with the device locked on, riding with a low centre of gravity and high handlebars like a chopper, he finished second to last ahead of Lorenzo Savadori.
He was desperately hoping for something positive to materialise and give him and his Petronas SRT squad some sort of shining light at the end of the tunnel in the Qatar 2 race but it wasn’t to be, a missing knee slider and a cooked rear tyre put an end to any hopes of a top 10 finish during the race. Although it was never mentioned officially out of worry of annoying his long time sponsor Dainese, Morbidelli did actually lose a knee slider and the camera never lies, there is photo proof as you can see below. Morbidelli officially put his issues down to cooking his tyres too early but anyone who has ridden a motorcycle fairly fast on a race track knows that without a knee slider you are not going to be fast, we posted about this on our Instagram story with various professional riders confirming this to us, you are useless without a knee slider in the highest level of motorcycle racing. The used up tyres and missing knee slider meant his race was another washout, honestly just bringing it home in P12 is impressive enough.
Slider gate 2K21, before (left) and after (right).
The issues in Qatar were a massive stroke of bad luck against his name but to the delight of many including the man himself, his fortunes changed for the better in Portimao taking an incredibly solid P4 finish, he was able to finish as the highest placed independent rider on a now two-year-old Yamaha M1. Morbidelli proved to the world and proved to everyone who cared enough to question his ability to ride a motorbike that these two races were nothing short of miserable luck on a track which is an anomaly for many riders, causing woes and massive issues for many including KTM who struggled in testing and the two gruelling race weekends before Brad Binder was able to finish in P5 in Portimao coming from P15 on the grid.
Morbidelli was able to battle for the podium until the very last lap in Portugal and confirmed after the race that he “had a lot of fun”, he spent his weekend improving his feeling with the motorcycle. As previously mentioned he is riding a two-year-old bike despite being Yamaha’s best rider last year, it is not known if this is a Petronas Yamaha decision or a Yamaha decision but as an outsider, it seems completely disrespectful to give your best rider of the previous year the scraps which your other riders do not want and expect him to make a meal of them. There is no doubting his level of talent but there is some doubt over Yamaha’s commitment to the Italian rider and the brand with whispers that he could look elsewhere for 2022 if things do not improve for him on a technical aspect.
With rumours of Suzuki starting a satellite team they will want a rider of his pedigree to race for them so who knows what could happen. Transfer talks aside, it’s always nice to see the cool, calm and collected Italian riding in form once again, long may it continue.
Featured images – Petronas Yamaha