In 2021 Franco Morbidelli will be the subject of one of the greatest possible contradictions regarding the technical package that he will have available. In 2020, the SIC Petronas Team rider took his Yamaha M1 to success three times, clinching the runner-up slot at the end of the season behind Joan Mir. A fantastic season, which with a little more luck he could have finished as champion.
Yet in this third season as a Yamaha rider, Morbidelli will be the rider with the 'oldest' technical package among Iwata's four-man line-up. It’s a complicated situation, one that Franco has always accepted also because the bike he had available last year in any case allowed him to be an outright protagonist and with a freeze on development, it will be difficult to see huge steps forward from the M1 available to Vinales, Quartararo and his future team-mate Valentino Rossi.
During our interview with Razlan Razali (watch the video HERE), we talked about it and it was interesting to find out some details about the story.
“Well, we tried. First, when Frankie won in the first race in Misano, he came to see me and he said ‘Razlan, it’s wrong if I don't ask you but can we push for a factory bike for me next year or not?’ I said ‘look Frankie, I would do my best you know, and I really started the dialogue with Yamaha and of course it was not very promising for obvious reasons in terms of budget, in terms of parts and so on.
Morbidelli, however, continued to win with the 'old' bike just as Vinales and Quartararo faced the worst moment of the season.
“When he won in Valencia, I asked him again ‘Do you want a factory bike next year?’. He said ‘no no, I'm happy with my bike, you know, so that was the situation! Sometimes it’s a psychological thing because it's factory, but the bikes are the same. We tried again in our last meeting with Yamaha to try push for a factory bike for Frankie but unfortunately because of various factors they're unable to do so and of course we do not have that extra budget given the currency situation with the pandemic and all.”
In any case, the bike that Morbidelli will have at his disposal will be slightly updated.
“We were given assurance that there will be some improvements and developments on his bike. It's Frankie's third year with us, so I think the most important thing is for him to be comfortable and have fun, he’s a rider who when he is happy having fun he can perform as there is less pressure this year. Frankie is Frankie. He surprised us last year and in the second half of the year he was more consistent than Fabio. We did not expect him to come second in the championship to be very honest, but he has proven himself and we expect him to challenge for the championship this year.”
Rossi will instead have the M1 with more updated specifications, but this will not be a problem according to Razali. The relationship between Morbidelli and Rossi will not be affected by this technical difference.
“The question now is racing together in the same team which I think is great. We will not have the wall between Valentino and another rider, I spoke to Frankie a lot about this and his objective is to beat Valentino. It will be a nice environment to have Valentino and Frankie, they have such a great relationship, they respect each other, and I think it's going to be a great atmosphere. “