MotoGP: A new dawn for Morbidelli

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The 2019 MotoGP season should see a new dawn for Petronas Yamaha rider Franco Morbidelli, as the former Moto2 champion makes the move from a difficult-to-ride Marc VDS RC213V machine to a factory-spec Yamaha that should be identical to that of mentor and manager Valentino Rossi. Impressive in pre-season testing and already showing form on the Malaysian team’s machinery, MCN caught up with him to talk about the future.

How much will you have to change your style from the Honda?

I will change to a much smoother riding style, but my style is already smooth and this bike just calls for that when you jump on it – it’s already like riding on butter the feeling is that nice! It comes naturally to me and I think it’ll keep coming like that, and I’ll just keep following what the bike tells me to do. It’s not a lot less physical than the previous bike, but everything just happens a lot more smoothly. The old bike was quite rough and reactive, with everything happening on it quite fast. 

You look like you’ve adapted well to the Yamaha already with your testing times?

Of course, to see myself in top positions is nice, but it doesn’t matter too much because it’s only testing. We’re still learning the strong points and the weak points of the bikes, and we’ll have to push and squeeze the package more to find those. We still need to study and understand where to improve, but normally that’s a natural process that comes from riding the bike. Already we’ve been quite fast because we’ve started from a really good place and the bike is quite easy to understand, but I don’t know what percentage along in my process I am.

How will competing against Valentino change your relationship?

It won’t change anything. We’re friends outside of the track; in fact, he’s much more than a friend. But when we race, we race and when we’re on the track we try to do our job at the maximum, but we can still be friends afterwards. We spend a lot of time together, because I’ve been training with him basically since I was 12 or 13, before there even was a VR46 Academy, and that’s what makes a friendship.

We’ve already discussed the weak points and the strong points of the bike a lot, and everything that’s going on in Yamaha right now, but we haven’t gone into too many specific details just yet. But I think he’s looking for different things from me next year, fighting for the championship and winning races every week. Maybe sometimes I can be there fighting with him, and it’ll be a great thing for me if I can.

Yamaha have told us that you should be first tin line for a factory bike in 2021. Is that your target too?

I try to be the best rider I can be every time I go onto the bike and get on a bike, and if at the end of these two years I deserve a factory bike then we’ll see what happens. But it depends on what happens with my performance, and whether I deserve one.

Simon Patterson

By Simon Patterson

MotoGP and road racing reporter, photographer, videographer