While reigning MotoGP champion Fabio Quartararo leads the way after 12 races, team-mate Morbidelli currently sits in 19th position with just a race win worth of points to his name (25). 

Morbidelli’s only top ten result so far this season came during race two in Mandalika, which was a wet race dominated by Miguel Oliveira

Traditionally a better wet-weather rider than Quartararo, even Mandalika proved not to be the case as Quartararo claimed an impressive P2 in what were very treacherous conditions. 

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Throughout the season Morbidelli has looked nothing like the rider that finished second to Joan Mir in 2020. The Italian has struggled for pace at every round compared to Quartararo and in some cases he’s finished over half a minute down on the Frenchman, on equal machinery. 

Back to full fitness after a significant leg injury last season, Morbidelli was expected to reach the heights previously shown in 2020 and 21. But while that’s been far from the case, fellow Italian and VR46 Academy rider Luca Marini has come to the defence of Morbidelli. 

Marini, who is enjoying his best run in MotoGP at this time, believes the injury has affected Morbidelli more than anyone could have expected. 

Speaking to GPOne.com, Marini said: "Franco [Morbidelli] had a pretty major injury, he missed a lot of time and a lot of races. The rehabilitation was not easy and then the bike changed from the one he had in 2020. 

"In my opinion Franco was very badly affected by the injury, but I am sure he will be back to the top. A guy who wins races in MotoGP and finishes second in the world championship has already proved everything in my opinion." 

Usually knocked out of qualifying in Q1, Morbidelli has found it difficult to make progress during race conditions due to Yamaha's lack of top speed. 

However, Quartararo has shown that overtaking with the M1 is more than possible - extracting the bike’s full performance on a new soft tyre has instead been a main issue for Morbidelli. 

“Yamaha followed Quartararo”, says the 2021 MotoGP rookie

Given the results and level of consistent performances Quartararo has been achieving of late, it's no surprise that Yamaha has been favouring the world champion when it comes to development. 

While this was largely based on Quartararo being in the factory team before Morbidelli arrived, the former Moto2 world champion’s injury did not help matters towards the end of 2021.  

"Yamaha followed Fabio throughout the development because they had him as a rider and he was winning races," added Marini. 

"Maybe they do not have the same riding style and so one struggles to adapt. You can try to adapt, to improve, but you can't become like another rider and I think that's the key."

Confirmed at Yamaha for at least another season, the three-time MotoGP race winner will be under intense pressure to not only remain at Yamaha, but in MotoGP if results don’t begin to turn around swiftly.