until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Yamaha admission is first sign faith in Morbidelli is waning

by Simon Patterson
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

It’s been a tough start to the 2022 MotoGP season for Franco Morbidelli, with not much to show from the first six races except for a string of underachieving results.

And, after another one last weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix, it seems like factory Yamaha team boss Lin Jarvis is starting to show some regrets about his decision to offer the former championship runner-up a contract for two more years.

Morbidelli stepped up to the factory team in mid-2021 upon his return from serious knee complications, replacing Maverick Vinales following his controversial departure and subsequent switch to Aprilia. Morbidelli was, as a result, signed up to the factory team on an unexpected two-year deal for 2022 and 2023 that takes him out of sync with the majority of the grid.

Since then, however, he’s been struggling to find any form at all, with his best result after the opening races of the year a seventh place in wet conditions in Indonesia but with no top-10 finishes in the dry in nearly a calendar year. His last top-10 finish came last June when he finished the Catalan Grand Prix in ninth just before a five-race hiatus to have corrective surgery.

For much of the start of the year as he recovers from that operation and the enforced weeks of rest and recuperation before beginning intensive rehab, his Yamaha team has been highly supportive of Morbidelli, giving him the time to heal up throughout testing, even after making his actual return in the final five races of 2021.


But speaking to MotoGP’s Simon Crafar after Sunday’s race at Jerez, where Morbidelli scored only a single point in 15th while his team-mate Fabio Quartararo fought for the win and eventually finished second, team boss Jarvis opened up on his true feelings about the latest performance from his rider.

“Frankie… disappointing,” the veteran team manager admitted. “I expected more. This morning he found a better setting, we changed something on the bike, but frankly, I expected something a little bit more. But anyway, step by step we keep working, and the important point is the one at the front.”

For his part, however, Jarvis’s rider was much more optimistic after the race about the step forward that he had taken, adamant that the pace he’d shown in warm-up was still there, just badly masked by a terrible starting position that meant he was never really able to get going in a race where increased tyre pressures in the slipstream of other riders negated more than just performance.

“It was good because I reconfirmed the improvement of the warm-up,” said Morbidelli. “In the warm-up I had a really good pace, a really acceptable pace, which was one of the best. But starting from this far behind and with this hot temperature, my front pressure went sky-high pretty soon in the race.

“At the third lap it was already high, much higher than the standards already, and I couldn’t push all the race long, I just did some pushing in the last three laps when I overtook Luca [Marini] and I had a little bit of gap in front of me.

“The pressure dropped a little, and I could do some pushing and actually the laptime was really good, but it was the end of the race, and I was 15th. The train was gone. It’s our fault because we started 16th, but I’m happy because of the feeling.”


However, that claim is somewhat dubious given the reality of his pace in the final laps compared to his rivals. His fastest was a 1m38.6s lap but that’s still half a second slower than the best set by race leader Pecco Bagnaia – and slower than every single flying lap of the race completed by Bagnaia and Morbidelli’s team-mate Quartararo in second.

And as long as the improvements fail to appear on the timing screens or the results pages, Morbidelli is well aware that there’s only so long he can keep an optimistic face on things before he actually has to deliver some results as well.

“It was much less of a fight compared to Portimao,” he explained on Saturday of his performances in practice and qualifying, “much less of a fight compared to usual. But not good yet.

“Not being good yet, but still decently competitive, so that’s encouraging, cause we need also encouraging practices like this FP4, because I keep telling you that, ‘I will arrive, I will arrive, I will arrive’ but if you don’t see progress, I might seem like a crazy psycho.

“But I’m not! We will arrive. Step by step, when we will have the feeling that I want to have, we will arrive.”

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