Though it wasn’t the win he looked well on course for during much of the Czech Republic MotoGP, Franco Morbidelli says he cannot be disappointed with his second place finish as he stepped on the MotoGP podium for the first time in Brno.

Though he came into the weekend with only a best result of fifth place to his name, the Italian nonetheless began the Czech race as a cautious favourite from the front row having shown impressive long run pace in practice.

Snatching the lead on the exit of Turn 1, Morbidelli quickly built up a 2.5secs advantage over the opposition but having opted for a softer rear tyre on the Petronas SRT Yamaha than those behind him, he was steadily reeled in by Brad Binder before the South African pounced with nine laps remaining.

Nonetheless, Morbidelli kept it moving to complete a second-place finish for a long-awaited first-ever MotoGP podium.

“I am very happy about this podium. The first part of the race I just tried to get my ryhym and manage the tyre as best, so I did the maximum but after 10 laps I was already struggling with the tyre and then five laps from the end I had another drop and I was just trying to bring the machine home and get this first podium to bring some joy to me, my team and people.”

In an 18 month period that has seen his efforts in the team overshadowed by precocious team-mate Fabio Quartararo, Morbidelli says he feels the hard work he has put in behind the scenes during the off-season are paying dividends.

“Last year was a difficult year for me because I thought I’d be stronger than what I showed. Instead Fabio was really good and really strong, so I said to myself at the end of the year that I didn’t want to keep going along that path and have that situation again.

“So, I started work more, work better and be more serious at home. I tried to be more professional and I have already seen the results in the tests, I was faster than last year.

“I think in Jerez if I was starting better I would have done a better result in race one and in race two also, but here we started faster and were fast all weekend. I hope that I have made a step and after three races I can say it, but during the championship you always go up and down, so it is important to make the maximum every race.”

In a touching moment at the end of the race, Morbidelli sought out friend, mentor and probable future Petronas SRT Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi for an embrace, the nine-time GP champion having nurtured the Italian’s rise via his VR46 Academy.

“I’m here mostly because of him, because he believed in me when I was nobody. I know it’s strange because we race against each other, but when the race is over he is a great friend of mine, he is like a big uncle or big brother, so after the race I just wanted to hug him and the Academy riders. It was a great moment.”