Morbidelli: ‘Whiff of the podium, feet on the ground’

Outscored 248 points to 42 by Fabio Quartararo last year, Franco Morbidelli probably didn’t expect to be leading his team-mate after the opening four races of the new MotoGP season.
Franco Morbidelli, MotoGP race, Argentina MotoGP, 2 April
Franco Morbidelli, MotoGP race, Argentina MotoGP, 2 April

Morbidelli managed just two points in the Portimao opener but, while Quartararo continued to suffer a combination of setbacks in Argentina, the Italian delivered his best weekend since a podium at Jerez 2021.

Indeed, the former title runner-up’s pair of fourth places in Termas means he has already scored half as many points as during the whole of last season.

“My best weekend for a while. I'm happy about that. We were quick in different conditions, half and half, wet, dry. That's positive,” Morbidelli said.

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“I’ll keep my feet on the ground, and I'm conscious that in this category it's very easy to collapse or come up as we saw. But I take this as a great confidence injection for me, and for the team, also. I'm looking forward to seeing if the improvements and the good feeling I had here continues in Austin.”

Just 1.5s from the podium in the dry Sprint, Morbidelli held fourth for the opening half of the wet Sunday race, which became third when Francesco Bagnaia crashed out.

But Morbidelli, like Alex Marquez ahead, couldn’t resist the late rise of Johann Zarco, pushing him to fourth at the flag.

“I started to struggle a lot with the rear grip, unfortunately,” Morbidelli said.

“I gave everything to keep my spot, but Johann's potential was just so much more. So unfortunately I couldn't [keep the podium]. I really wanted to, but I couldn't.

“I had a whiff of the podium yesterday, and I smelled it today but couldn't quite get it. Anyway, it was a great weekend for me, and we need to build onto this.”

Franco Morbidelli, MotoGP race, Argentina MotoGP, 02 April
Franco Morbidelli, MotoGP race, Argentina MotoGP, 02 April

Grip, along with straight-line speed, has been the main limitation for the M1 in recent seasons.

The 28-year-old found the extra engine performance from this year’s powerplant was also a boost in the wet, but Ducati remains the ‘reference’ as an all-round package.

“Similar feeling to the dry. There are some areas where we lose compared to the Ducatis, which are the aim and the reference,” Morbidelli said. “But definitely the package worked this weekend. The improvements that the bike did in the straight, it's useful also in the wet. So let's see what happens in the future.”

Morbidelli’s 21 points put him ninth overall in the early world championship standings, three points and one place clear of Quartararo.

The Frenchman, behind Morbidelli in Friday practice, qualifying and the Sprint, was pushed wide on the opening lap of Sunday’s race before recovering to seventh.

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