Petronas achieved its 2020 target at the very first round of the season when Fabio Quartararo made history as the first person to win a MotoGP race for a satellite Yamaha team.

The young Frenchman promptly repeated the feat the following weekend and went on to lead the world championship for the majority of the season, before a sudden decline to eighth in the closing stages.

But while Quartararo faltered on the Factory-Spec bike, 'underdog' team-mate Franco Morbidelli was on the rise with the A-Spec machine. The Italian not only matched Quartararo's three victories for the season but was propelled to runner-up in the world championship behind Suzuki's Joan Mir.

“It was unexpected and actually it has been a rollercoaster, just like Portimão!" Petronas Yamaha team principal Razlan Razali said of the season.

"We started off this year coming off the back of a great first season in 2019 where we achieved a number of pole positions and a couple of podiums, which was already beyond our expectations.

"Our approach this year was to try and get that first win and to be the first satellite Yamaha team to do in about 20 years. We wanted to achieve that for the fans, who couldn’t be at the races, for the team and of course for Yamaha. Even better than that, Fabio Quartararo won back-to-back races in Jerez!

"After that it became a rollercoaster ride, where after somehow leading the championship for most of the year, it wasn’t to be our year. We found ourselves slipping backwards until Franco Morbidelli claimed his first podium in Brno and Fabio came back with a win In Barcelona.

“After that we had mixed fortunes with Fabio struggling while Franky became more consistent, taking podiums and wins.

"Although it was a topsy-turvy season, there were plenty of positives. Franco coming second in the world championship completely beat our expectations and was something we didn’t expect.

"We had some unpredictable results but on paper we looked strong and, although we were a little disappointed, our two-year-old team racked up six wins, six pole positions and eight podiums, which is something that we are very proud of.”

Team director Johan Stigefelt said that while Quartararo had served a taste of what was to come last season, Morbidelli had to work hard after 'struggling' in 2019.

"We saw, especially with Fabio in 2019, incredible performances that saw him get stronger and stronger each race," Stigefelt said. "He grew as a rider and we too learned and grew with him as a team.

"Also we got better machinery from Yamaha, he had a factory bike, so coming into this season I did expect top results from Fabio. We didn’t put any pressure on him but we were expecting podiums and wins, that’s what we were targeting.

"With Franky it was a bit different because he struggled in 2019, but he worked so hard in the winter and he really was an underdog this year.

"Nobody really spoke about him but as a team we always supported him and then he grew stronger and stronger during 2020, similar to Fabio in 2019, so it was really nice to see that progress and to see him end this season second in the championship.”

Wins by both riders unsurprisingly featured in the season highlights for both Razali and Stigefelt.

"Fabio’s win in Jerez, achieving our team’s first victory in MotoGP, was unbelievable and a great feeling," said Razali. "Words cannot explain further than that.

"Then Franky’s win at the second Valencia round was such a good moment. At the first Valencia race we had two pole positions in Moto2 and Moto3, but we weren’t able to capitalise on it.

"We had possibly the hardest championship round but then one week later Franco’s win was like a big morale boost. It lifted the team up and our motivation continued to end the final round in Portimão in a good way. Those were two great moments for the team.”

“If I were to list my top three moments the first is definitely the win coming back from lockdown," agreed Stigefelt. "Fabio’s win in Jerez was such an amazing feeling and that was the reward for many years of hard work and dedication from everyone in the team.

"My second highlight is Misano when Franky and John both won on the same day and I was on the podium two times – it was a great feeling.

"The third best moment was Franky’s fight in Valencia when he beat [Jack] Miller in a last lap battle. It’s not every day that you get to see that in MotoGP anymore and it showed how strong Franky is as a rider, and how hard he is to beat.”

Looking ahead to 2021, Razali believes Morbidelli will again be a title contender.

"In MotoGP our aim is to continue winning, we want to show that this wasn’t just a ‘lucky’ year for us," Razali said.

“I am confident that Franky will continue his good form in MotoGP next year and I think he could be one of the contenders for the 2021 world championship.

"Nobody should underestimate him, as we have seen that he was a contender this year."

Meanwhile, Quartararo will swap places with Valentino Rossi by joining the factory Yamaha team while the nine-time world champion slots in alongside Morbidelli at Sepang.

"With Valentino coming on board it will be an amazing feeling, a different feeling, because he’s coming from a factory team," said Stigefelt. "It was a long time ago that he was last riding for a satellite team, so we will support him and hope to make him feel comfortable. I think if we do that then he will be very fast."

"It will be a very different atmosphere here for Valentino Rossi as we are a real family and one team across all three categories, where we support one another completely," added Razali.

"I hope to learn a lot from him and at the same time I’m sure he can learn things from us as well. Therefore I think next year will be extremely exciting.”

And having made satellite Yamaha history by winning a MotoGP race, Stigefelt now has an even tougher record in mind.

“My ultimate wish is to have our riders win all three classes on [the same] weekend. We saw in Misano that we can get two of the three, as Franco and John [McPhee, Moto3] proved," he said.

"Winning on the same day in all three categories is something that no-one else has done before, so it would be really something if we were the first. It’s a big target but I think we can do it!”

 

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