Wilco Zeelenberg has provided an early assessment of Petronas Sepang Racing Team’s (SRT) MotoGP rider line-up, and believes the mix of Franco Morbidelli’s precision and Fabio Quartararo’s raw talent should lead to a positive inaugural premier class season for the squad.

The Dutchman, who has moved across from Yamaha’s factory team, where he worked as a rider coach, to manage SRT’s MotoGP affairs had the opportunity to evaluate the merits of both riders at post-season tests at Valencia and Jerez last November.

Morbidelli took an immediate liking to the sweet-handling M1, and featured at the sharp end of both outings setting the set the sixth fastest time at both Valencia and Jerez. Quartararo, meanwhile, found his feet at the former, before ending the two-day test at Jerez an encouraging twelfth.

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And Zeelenberg feels Morbidelli’s accurate feedback will be an asset to the new squad. He noted the Italian’s detailing of the M1’s behaviour was “very straightforward, very precise,” traits he feels will benefit overall set-up direction through the year ahead.

“Well, I can say that after spending four days with Franco I can say his information flow is very straightforward and very precise,” said Zeelenberg, speaking at SRT’s official team presentation in Kuala Lumpur.

“That’s good for Yamaha, and also the team as well, to find solutions to perform the best way on Sunday. It’s very important. Not many riders are so precise.

“It’s not always necessary, but it helps the team a lot to keep everybody calm, and if you can point out exactly what the main problem is that weekend, you can work on it and fix it.

“It means you’re not losing the way. This is a big benefit from Franco’s feedback at the moment.

“For Fabio he rides at the moment on his raw talent. He’s very young but also very fast. So far his input in the team has been seen by his lap time.

“He doesn’t know the bike, he doesn’t know MotoGP, he’s still in his learning curve and I think he will continue like that for this season, I guess. But he’s learning fast and I’m sure he will be there.”

Zeelenberg was, however, tight-lipped regarding the exact specifications of his riders’ M1s. Other than stating Morbidelli and Quartararo’s machines would be “very similar” to those raced by Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales, he assured journalists the team would “have a better package” than the one used by Tech 3, Yamaha's old satellite team, in 2018.

“Already [Kouichi] Tsuji-san [Yamaha’s MotoGP Group Leader] said the bikes will be very similar compared to the factory team. The rules don’t allow many differences engine-wise.

“Of course the factory team will always go fast, because it never stops, the development. You have to realise the engines are frozen for the whole season. Whatever we start with, we will finish with.

“I know what Tech 3 had in the past and that was very good. But at this moment, we have a better package than them. So we know that the difference is getting smaller than bigger.”

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