Franco Morbidelli has given credit to both team-mate Fabio Quartararo and Yamaha for recent performance gains as he secures a first front-row start since the Catalan round back in June.

The Petronas Yamaha rider acted as Marc Marquez’s closest rival in mixed conditions during qualifying for the Japanese MotoGP with the Italian rider taking second place just 0.132s off the Repsol Honda rider.

With Morbidelli heading up a trio of Yamaha riders in qualifying, in front of team-mate Quartararo and factory Yamaha’s Maverick Vinales, the Italian feels performance improvements by the Iwata factory are being exploited by all its riders and credits Quartararo with doing “amazing things” in his rookie MotoGP campaign.

“I think it is a combination of two things, one is Fabio because he arrived and showed that with this bike it is possible to do amazing things and it is possible to be unbelievably fast,” Morbidelli said. “I think he gave the right motivation to all the Yamaha riders to improve.

“And Yamaha also improved the package so this brought all the four Yamahas ahead in the standings.

“I think to beat Fabio in a hot lap is one of the most difficult things in the world. He is unbelievably fast and he is able to pull out hot laps like drinking water so I am very happy about that.”

With Morbidelli notching up three top-six results across the past four rounds, having been taken out by Suzuki’s Alex Rins on the opening lap in Aragon, the Italian is duly targeting a maiden premier class rostrum but wants to remain realistic about his chances at the Japanese GP.

“I have a good pace, a decent pace, so we hope to make a good race tomorrow but I don’t want to be too trustful because first I need to put it on track and then I can say it,” he explained.

“We’ve been decently strong throughout the weekend and yesterday we were fast all day and this morning we were fast in the wet.

“We have a good position to start from tomorrow and we will have to see what the weather is like because we still don’t know, it looks like it is going to be dry, yesterday we had a good feeling in dry weather. We are ready for the race.”

Morbidelli has matched his career-best qualifying position of second place from the Jerez round, when Quartararo claimed a maiden pole position on the other Petronas Yamaha, but struggled to replicate the same front-running pace in the race as he faded to seventh place.