Franco Morbidelli is coming to the end of his adventure with Yamaha in MotoGP. In Qatar he will race the penultimate race on the M1, then fly to Valencia and ride a Ducati after the last GP of the season. His contract with Pramac tells us that the Ducati in question is a GP24, i.e., the same as the official team. But with the move of Luca Marini to Honda and therefore the presence of a free bike in VR46, rumours have been gathering in the paddock that Franco would be one of the possible names destined to get on that bike.
In the briefing with journalists that begins the race weekend, Morbidelli expressed his thoughts about these rumours.
"I'm happy with the opportunity that Pramac has given me, and I can't wait to start working with them on that bike. VR46 is definitely a great team and I know all the guys. They deserve all the good they are doing. But I signed the contract with Pramac and I want to start racing with them."
What do you expect here in Qatar, will the new asphalt change anything?
"I expect a good weekend, we were really fast in Sepang. I honestly don't know why we were so fast, but I hope it happens here too. The new asphalt doesn't matter so much in my opinion, we'll all be in the same condition."
Despite a difficult season, you always seem relaxed. Is a last gasp with Yamaha possible?
"I feel good from a mental point of view, strong. I look at the positives that surrounds me, I have strong motivations. Honestly, even the fact that we are separating with the team has put everyone in a calm condition from a mental point of view. We work better on race weekends, and this is paying off in my opinion. Everything is possible today in MotoGP, really."
In the last few races, the M1 has been going strong. What is Yamaha's level in your opinion, the one we see today or the one at the beginning of the season?
"You can ask Alex Rins after Valencia. We suffer a lot in acceleration and in many other areas. You need certain situations to happen to bring out the best from our package. But I have been riding this bike for two and a half years and I'm used to it by now. It will be interesting to hear what another rider will say. Cal Crutchlow as suffered in the races he has raced with us this year, while other test riders suffered less. I would like to see Alex's performance in the first test, he comes from a long break due to injury. But he will certainly give some indications and sensations that will be interesting to listen to."
Do you think Yamaha deserves the concessions?
"I'm not prepared on this topic; I certainly don't control the championship or anything else. I would say that I only control the bike I ride. I wouldn't want to say things that put me in difficulty on this point. Maybe over a beer I'd talk, but now I'd rather not."
Difficult question: will you go faster in Valencia or Marc Marquez with the Ducati?
"Marc is an eight-time world champion, I have only won one title. Based on his history, the perception and what we all expect, and all of us riders too, I would say, is that he will get on the Ducati and go very fast. Probably some riders even expect him to kill the championship, as Crutchlow said. But this sport holds many surprises, this category in particular. I can't say anything with extreme certainty as others have said."