Franco Morbidelli retains the status of an unknown variable for the 2022 season. With each stage, there are more and more questions about the results of the Yamaha factory pilot, and the answers are less and less convincing. Let’s try to analyze in detail the current situation, which turns out to be even more difficult than the conflict between Yamaha and Maverick Vinales in 2021, which led to the breakups.
Let’s go back to the end of the 2020 season, which ended for Morbido with third place in Porto. In principle, Franks fought for the championship with Joan Mir that season. The season turned out to be one of the strangest in history due to the coronavirus pandemic. At Yamaha, all attention was focused on the Quartararo, and the young El Diablo spent a really strong first half of the season on the factory M1 in Petronas colors, but then the Frenchman lost his way.
Franco was destined to play the role of the second rider in the team, riding a motorcycle a year ago. On the one hand, it’s not very good, because technology is developing, and motorcycles are getting faster every year. On the other hand, the Italian knew the bike like his 5 fingers, and harmony reigned in the boxes thanks to Ramon Forcade, who was the chief mechanic of Morbido from the first day at Yamaha. Franco was strong, won three victories, left behind the Quartararo, and proved himself to be a strong-minded racer.
2021 – the first disappointment in the form of the lack of a factory M1 for Franco
At the end of 2020, the paddock saw Morbidelli on the factory M1 in 2021, but the arrival of Valentino Rossi at Petronas “forced” Yamaha to make a different choice, giving the only factory M1 in the team to the Doctor. Razali and Petronas tried to force Yamaha to make a different choice, but Morbido ended up with a 2-year-old motorcycle. Franco really started the 2021 season on a 2019 motorcycle. The first races, obviously, were, to put it mildly, not exciting. However, after the first two lackluster stages, Franco seemed ready to return to the 2020 level, taking 4th place in Porto and 3rd place in Jerez.
In short, it seemed that everything was back to normal, despite the fact that Morbidelli was fighting with a motorcycle clearly less powerful than his rivals, but he could still fight for good results. Everything collapsed at Le Mans with the aggravation of the knee injury. Franco hoped to avoid surgery and tried to fight despite his suboptimal physical condition, but before the stage in Assen, it was decided to postpone the operation, which could no longer be postponed.
Meanwhile, a conflict with Maverick Vinales was gaining momentum in Yamaha, and a gap was brewing, which became a real shock for MotoGP. For Franco, this whole story was a great opportunity, a place in the Yamaha factory team was his. Lin Jarvis brought Morbidelli to the factory team already during the 2021 season after knee surgery to help the rider acclimatize and prepare for 2022.
Joining the factory team and breaking with Forcada
The first unpleasant surprise was that Ramon Forcada did not follow Morbidelli to the Yamaha factory team, thereby the Italian lost reliable support in the boxes. From the first races, it was difficult for Rossi’s students. The best result of the final part of the season for Franco was 11th place in Valencia. Nevertheless, it seemed that the Italian was gradually getting stronger, and many believed that Franco’s difficulties in the factory team were most related to his physical condition. Franco was expected to jump in 2022, and return to the results of 2020 – the conditions with the Quartararo are equal, the motorcycle is the latest version, and support is at the highest level, but it was not there. The rider experienced difficulties at each stage, and his best result at the moment is 7th place at the end of the wet race in Mandalika. In short, at the moment the 2022 season is a disaster for Franco. Especially against the background of Quartararo, who leads in the individual standings.
Yamaha is at a crossroads. The RNF team decided that continuing to cooperate with the Japanese is a lost cause, and from next year Razali will cooperate with Aprilia. The number of Yamaha motorcycles in 2023 will be reduced by two factory M1. And if Quartararo performs at 200% on one of them, then there is no certainty that Morbidelli will be his partner at the moment.
In every interview, Franco remains calm. It seems that he does not give up and does not succumb to pressure due to poor results, but something is definitely going wrong. Something does not allow Franco to return to the level of the 2020 season two years later. And Yamaha cannot afford to have in the pits at the same time a rider who fights for victory in every race, and a second rider who barely makes it into the top 10.
Prospects – Razgatlioglu & Aprilia
The gap is possible between Yamaha and Morbidelli. We have repeatedly been convinced that the existence of a signed contract does not guarantee anything. Is there a loophole in Franco’s contract that will allow Yamaha to start the termination procedure? Quite possibly. For sure there is a point about the performance of the rider, and, let’s be honest, Morbidelli at the moment does not correspond to the level of the team for which he stands.
If Yamaha terminates the contract with Franco, then what are the prospects for both sides? Lin Jarvis has never hidden that he would be glad to see WorldSBK champion Toprak Razgatlioglu in MotoGP. The test in Aragon went well, Toprak dominated the last stage of the superbike in Donington, why not?
And Morbidelli? Return to Razali in RNF and, accordingly, transfer to Aprilia. For Frankie, this is a chance to return to a comfortable environment and reboot, restoring self-confidence. The best solution for Morbido is to shoot after the summer break and regain confidence in yourself, but if this does not happen, there is a high probability of loud headlines mentioning Frank Morbidelli and Yamaha.