With his helmet and suit on, Franco Morbidelli looks more cheerful and relaxed. The stop caused by the Coronavirus had destabilized him,"I was in lockodownated," he said jokingly, coining a neologism to describe what his state of mind was. He had fun riding the corners of the Ciocco on the Hyundai rally and acting as co-rider to Dani Sordo in the event organized by WITHU.
But, after a few weeks, he's been back to training on his motorbike: flat track at the Ranch and speed at Misano and Mugello. "It was like a new start. It was nice to get back on the bike. I smiled a lot," he said, as he described those feelings.
Will training be enough to face such a special championship?
“It's a new and unknown situation for everyone. We're jumping into it, and I don't really know what'll happen. But I know that I'm getting ready to face such a unique and important season."
You haven't renewed with Yamaha yet for next year. Are you worried?
“I don't have a contract right now, but I'm ok. I'm fully confident in the people who work for me, and with me, and in those I work for, like Lin, Razlan, Wilco. I'm lucky to work with really good people who believe in me and, consequently, I have immense trust in them."
If everything goes as it should, you'll have Rossi as a teammate. Did you ever imagine that?
“Just hearing you say it gives me shivers down my spine," he said smiling. "I met Valentino when I was 13, and I would never have thought it. That thought never crossed my mind, not even as the years passed. Now it's a possibility. He'll choose and, if it happens, I'll be very happy. A circle will close for me."
You were the first rider of his Riders Academy.
"It's like a book, and it'll be up to us to write its pages well."
Rossi wouldn't be like just any other teammate.
“For various reasons. First of all, because Vale is a friend. We've known each other for a long time. We train together and live in the same town. Many of the things I know, most of them, I learned from him. These are the things that make our relationship different from what I have with Fabio."
Is there a risk that you'll see things differently on the track?
“No, all these things don't change the fact that we're going to race against each other in the World Championship. The factors I mentioned mitigate our relationship but not the competitiveness we have on the track. I don't only see him in the MotoGP but also at the Ranch. I happened to battle with Vale many times there and also in the World Championship, and I feel that I has the same level of competitiveness with him like he has with me. This is a great thing because, when two friends go up against each other, sometimes a conflict can arise. But, if the friendship endures, then the competition also becomes great without losing that aggressiveness."
Is it an additional incentive?
“When Vale and I meet at the Ranch or in a MotoGP race, we give it our best. Each one of us wants to be in front of the other at all costs. This is the beautiful thing about a friendship when it's combined with sports and, in my opinion, that's what will happen."
Is the feeling also different when you win or lose against Rossi?
“It's different. I don't mean that I want to beat Vale more than I want to beat Quartararo, but doing it has two different feelings, and I don't mean that one is better or worse. There's a deep friendship that binds me to Valentino and this makes the difference."
Do you think you could be his last teammate in the MotoGP?
"I don't want to be. I'm sure that day will come, and I'm sure it'll be very sad for motorcycling, in general, but that's how life goes. Vale has made his way, he's still carrying it forward and, when it ends, I'll personally be very sad. I have always seen him race, and that's his place."
Have you ever thought about leaving Yamaha?
"No, because I never received offers from other teams."
Let's move on to the races. How does the new calendar look on paper?
“Each race will be faced in the best way possible, depending on our psycho-physical conditions at that moment. It'll be a hectic five months. They'll be more physically and mentally tiring, but it'll be like that for all the riders."
Do you think there might be some surprises?
"No, because we won't have shorter races but a shorter championship."
Not even the double race on the same circuit would mess up the cards?
“Balances are always precarious, so they can change. If we look at it from an entertainment aspect, I don't think there'll be any problem. The winner of the first race is not necessarily the same in the second."