Franco Morbidelli became Moto2 world champion in 2017, taking eight victories and twelve podiums. This earned him promotion to MotoGP with Marc VDS the following year. After a year with Honda, in 2019 the Roman moved to Yamaha’s satellite team, the then Petronas, together with Fabio Quartararo. Following a complicated season together with the Frenchman, in 2020 Morbidelli exploded with three victories and five podiums, fighting for the title right up to the last few races and becoming runner-up in the world.
A knee injury in 2021 hampered Morbidelli’s progress, who after a long absence returned to the paddock as an official Yamaha rider to replace Maverick Vinales, who had abruptly left Iwata in the meantime.
Since his arrival in the official garage, Morbidelli has completely “disappeared”, nothing is known about that rider who aimed for the maximum and who won races. Today, no one questions the fact that his place is in danger, and it was doubted even before this pre-season ended.
If there is anyone who knows Morbidelli well, it is none other than Uccio Salucci, director of VR46 and Valentino Rossi’s right-hand man. Motorsport.com had the opportunity to talk to him last weekend in Portimao. The question that the whole paddock is asking is what happens to Morbidelli. “I don’t know, really. Honestly, I can’t answer this question,” confesses Uccio.
Franco Morbidelli, Yamaha Factory Racing
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
The first rider who in some way was a “protégé” of Valentino Rossi is the late Marco Simoncelli, given that the birth of the VR46 followed his death. So the first “pupil” of the Riders Academy was Morbidelli himself, whose father has been a friend of Graziano, Rossi’s father, for many years. Hence the Roman is special for Valentino.
“I’ll tell you what,” Uccio explains. “The Academy and Vale personally are currently focusing 60% on Franco Morbidelli and 40% on the other riders. We are working a lot with him. It’s not easy but I’m not able to answer the question of what’s happening to him. It’s not just one thing, it’s many little things coming together and we’re not able to understand. Let’s hope this year can be competitive. But at the moment, unfortunately, I cannot give an answer.”
Morbidelli has a contract with Yamaha that expires at the end of this season and it is VR46 that manages the rider and must negotiate his future, both in this team and in another. These negotiations are not even planned at the moment. At Yamaha we continue to closely follow the evolution of Alonso Lopez, who on paper would be the option for 2024. However, to date no one discounts the idea that if a reaction from Morbidelli does not arrive in the first races of the season, Yamaha will take drastic decisions.
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