Petronas SRT rider Franco Morbidelli says he’s had a “frank” discussion with Yamaha manager Lin Jarvis about his current bike spec situation, which has been a source of barely-concealed frustration for the Italian.
Having had a difficult start to the season compared to the late-2020 form that allowed him to end that campaign as runner-up, Morbidelli has made several pointed references to his dissatisfaction with being saddled with an older-spec Yamaha – compared to a factory-spec bike for the two works riders and Morbidelli’s Petronas team-mate Valentino Rossi.
And having put his M1 on the front row and then the podium at Jerez – albeit a podium aided by the dominant Fabio Quartararo’s sudden bout of arm pump – Morbidelli again faced questions about his current package and his standing within Yamaha.
“I spoke to Lin and I told him my thoughts about the situation, and I was really frank with him, and he was really frank with me as well,” Morbidelli said.
“He understood my feelings and my situation, but we both finally came to the conclusion that I was unlucky, because of contracts, because of the COVID situation, because of many things going on.
“I was unlucky. I hope what luck took from me this year, it’s going to give it back to me somewhere in life.”
Morbidelli’s 2021 deal was announced shortly before the start of the COVID-delayed 2020 season, and it was known from the outset that he would not have a factory-spec bike.
Though some of its fellow MotoGP marques do supply a roster of four works-spec machines, Yamaha has repeatedly made it clear an upgrade for Morbidelli had been impossible due to both the timing of the decision but also the budget available to the Petronas team.
Making the situation more complicated, however, is that Petronas’s sole works-spec entry is currently significantly underperforming relative to Morbidelli in the hands of his mentor Rossi.
And whereas Rossi ended a difficult Spanish Grand Prix in 17th, when he was “never fast” and “suffering a lot” all through the weekend, his understudy Morbidelli followed the two leading Ducatis home and even pressured another Rossi protege Francesco Bagnaia for second place – albeit admitting he “didn’t have the potential to overtake” Bagnaia.
Morbidelli credited the result to a “magic modification” made by his veteran crew chief Ramon Forcada but also joked: “[There were] very few brakes [braking points] I was sure I was going to stop. All the other ones were question marks.”
He subsequently said his Jerez podium was made sweeter by the fact of the older package at his disposal.
“This podium feels wonderful and it feels more sweet than usual. There is this shadow of frustration around us, that’s for sure, but when we manage to make good results we’re just happy. I think we’re just happy. I’m just happy.”