Morbidelli: 'Unbelievable, full of joy!' Ranch battle, 'Bezzecchi deserved win'

Franco Morbidelli was ‘full of joy’ after delivering his best MotoGP performance since Jerez 2021 in the Argentine Sprint race.
Franco Morbidelli, Sprint race, Argentina MotoGP, 01 April
Franco Morbidelli, Sprint race, Argentina MotoGP, 01 April

The Italian, who had claimed just one top ten finish in factory Yamaha colours, shot from fourth to first on the opening lap and was a podium contender until the chequered flag.

The former title runner-up crossed the finish line 2.3s from race winner Brad Binder (KTM), having used his more powerful 2023 M1 engine to successfully hold off Alex Marquez (Ducati), Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati) and Maverick Vinales (Aprilia).

“I had a good start. I was a bit too excited in the first corner and there was a big wet patch. I got scared and went a bit wide,” Morbidelli recalled. “But then I was able to recover and even lead the race for one lap or whatever. It felt unbelievable. It felt so good!

Remote video URL

“We had less potential than the Ducatis but I tried to make the maximum and bring home the best result I could. It's a fourth place. We’ll take it. The team deserves this. The team is working so hard to catch up. We need to work even harder together and these kind of performances are good fuel for me and the team.”

But given the intense pressure Morbidelli has been under to replicate the kind of form shown by team-mate Fabio Quartararo, it was a massive boost for him personally.

“It feels so good. I'm so full of joy. I don't know if it looks like it. But I swear. I'm full of joy,” he said.

The Italian was quick to credit the input of ex-F1engine designer Luca Marmorini, brought in to extract more power from the M1 engine, for his ability to keep the other machines at bay.

“That [straight line speed] goes to the team and to engineer Marmorini. Big, big, big thanks to them. They did a great work on improving the engine. We have much more potential this year and that's great. And that's a big, big clap to them.

“We were able to be very difficult to overtake. Last year or usually we got smoked in a straight. So this is a positive, thanks to them… But there's still areas where we need to work on.”

The #20, whose Yamaha contract is up for renewal this season, confirmed that grip is still an issue for the M1 but believes the engine progress offers a “great base” to build upon.

“Let's see if we manage to fix our problems during the year ahead. I need to stay with the feet on the ground. And I need to think about tomorrow's race and then think about having this kind of performance in Austin. And if I'm able to do that, then we can think about building up and creating some performance on this good base,” he said.

Franco Morbidelli, Sprint race, Argentina MotoGP, 01 April
Franco Morbidelli, Sprint race, Argentina MotoGP, 01 April

'Bezzecchi deserved to win today'

Morbidelli joked that parts of the race felt like a training session at the VR46 ranch as he battled with Marco Bezzecchi, Luca Marini and Francesco Bagnaia.

He also echoed the opinion of Aleix Espargaro by saying that Bezzecchi had the speed to win on Saturday, had he not dropped as low as eighth in the early laps.

“Marco is doing so well. He deserved the win today and yeah he's a tough one to fight with. And he will be for sure a tough one to fight with in future,” Morbidelli said.

Espargaro, who fell while pushing too hard to catch the riders in front, commented: “Bezzecchi has a lot more speed than anybody else. If he started first, he [would win by] 3-4 seconds for sure. He was the man.”

Bezzecchi crossed the line 0.072s behind race winner Binder, having set the fastest race lap by 0.257s on lap 10 of 12 despite earlier bike damage from contact with team-mate Luca Marini.

Fabio Quartararo , Sprint Race, Argentina MotoGP, 1 April
Fabio Quartararo , Sprint Race, Argentina MotoGP, 1 April

Quartararo: 'Totally different riding style to Franco'

Meanwhile, Quartararo’s tough weekend continued with ninth place in the Sprint, 3.8s from the KTM rider.

“I did not get a great start,” said Quartararo, who has been struggling for corner speed on the low-grip Termas de Rio Hondo track. “The pace was not so bad but we were missing in some areas. In some corners, it was a lot; sectors 1 and 2. We will try to figure out why and improve for tomorrow.

“With Franco we have two totally different riding styles and the tracks where there is low grip, like Barcelona, Malaysia in the first tests, he is always fast and it is something where he is aggressive on the brakes and with corner speed,” Quartararo added.

“I am missing in some areas so here I am struggling to do it. Hopefully, there is no rain and in the warm-up we can try something different, that will work for the race.”

Sunday's main race will be over 25, rather than 12, laps.

Read More