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MotoGP

Yamaha MotoGP comments were Morbidelli ‘standing up for myself’

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

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Franco Morbidelli says his much-publicised comments in the aftermath of the Italian Grand Prix were him taking the opportunity to “stand up for myself” rather than hinting at a likely Yamaha MotoGP split.

But while the 28-year-old has insisted a renewal with Yamaha remains the priority, he also indicated that he was seeking “the best choice possible”.

Speaking to MotoGP.com at Mugello after finishing 10th on Sunday, Morbidelli repeatedly said “talk to Lin [Jarvis, Yamaha MotoGP boss]” when asked about whether the Italian GP performance, in which he’d got the better of team-mate Fabio Quartararo, would help his chances of staying with Yamaha.

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The tone of his answers seemed to suggest there had been some development in the matter of whether he and Yamaha would remain together – but while that may still be the case, Morbidelli hinted that part of the motivation behind how he spoke was that he felt he’s performed strongly enough this season relative to Quartararo not to have to repeatedly justify his value to Yamaha.

Morbidelli had a disastrous 2022, his first full season in Yamaha factory colours, but is just eight points behind Quartararo now, albeit with the M1 in a much worse state relative to its competition.

That Morbidelli has improved appears pretty clear. While he’s had some clearly rough weekends – at Portimao and the Circuit of the Americas – he also shone in the low grip of Termas de Rio Hondo and has claimed several important head-to-head victories over Quartararo across some qualifying sessions and races elsewhere, which almost never happened in 2022.

“That interview… made a lot of noise, apparently!” said Morbidelli at the Sachsenring, when asked by The Race about his Mugello quotes.

“Many people spoke to me about that interview. So… it has been anyway nice to stand to stand up for myself. And defend myself. And make… not only journalists, but the press and the people realise that my speed at the moment is very acceptable.

“Because it’s matching the [2021] world champion’s speed. And it’s matching the speed of a guy that has always been able to make a huge difference [relative to] his team-mates. And after this quarter of a championship, it’s very similar to mine.

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“And it looked like some of you were not realising that, and were asking me continuously if I was hoping for my contract to be renewed. And if I was hoping that Yamaha would keep me, many times.

“So it was nice to stand up for myself. And maybe open some eyes.”

Even amid Morbidelli’s improvement, it has been rumoured in the paddock that Yamaha had made an approach to a high-profile rider from another factory, while the likes of Jorge Martin and Moto2’s Alonso Lopez have long been publicly mooted as alternatives – even if Yamaha itself has insisted for most of the year that Morbidelli was first choice as long as he sustained his progress.

“About the future… we are discussing, still,” Morbidelli continued.

“Nothing is clear yet. We are discussing, we are talking.”

He said that the matter was in the hands of Gianluca Falcioni from Valentino Rossi’s VR46 organisation, and that he was dealing with it “very well, as he has always done in my career”.

“We are together since a lot of years and I trust him fully, I trust VR46 fully, especially Gianluca,” Morbidelli added. “And I believe that we are all going to take the best choice possible.

“It’s no secret that I have a special care for Yamaha. I have always been in MotoGP basically with Yamaha, apart from the first year [with Marc VDS Honda].

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“I’ve reached great results with Yamaha [at the satellite Petronas team], and I didn’t reach the results that I want to get with this factory Yamaha team.

“I am planning on doing this and one of my objectives when I joined this team was this. So, let’s see if we want to do this. And everything will be more clear in the future.”

Asked if renewing with Yamaha was the priority, Morbidelli answered in the affirmative.

But asked whether he could be tempted by a move into Rossi’s Ducati customer team VR46, if a spot could be opened up by some form of a promotion or move for Marco Bezzecchi, he said: “I’m waiting for the best choice possible. But if you want to know better this, you need to speak with Gianluca Falcioni.”

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