Franco Morbidelli

Franco Morbidelli
Country: 
Italy
Birth Date: 
4 December, 1994
Birth Place: 
Rome

Franco Morbidelli Biography

Franco Morbidelli will compete with the Petronas SRT Yamaha squad in the 2021 MotoGP World Championship for what will be his fourth season in the top flight and his third campaign with the Malaysian-backed satellite squad.

Making his MotoGP debut in 2018 on the back of winning the 2017 Moto2 World Championship, while Morbidelli was out-shone by his rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo at PSRT Yamaha in 2019, riding the lower-spec M1 in 2020 would see him emerge as the manufacturer's top contender.

Winning more races than anyone other than Quartararo, Morbidelli mounted a late season charge that would see him claim the runners-up spot behind Joan Mir

 

Franco Morbidelli - Route to MotoGP

At 18, Franco Morbidelli began to catch the eye by winning the European Superstock 600 championship in 2013 which led to the Italian-Brazilian rider securing his Moto2 debut as a replacement rider at Gresini.

Morbidelli made the full-time Moto2 switch in 2014 with the Italtrans Racing Team and after an unspectacular start he enjoyed a breakthrough race with a charge to sixth place at Sachsenring to trigger a run of top-10 finishes to end the year 11th in the championship standings.

A year later Morbidelli made his Moto2 podium debut with third place at Indianapolis but had his campaign stalled when he suffered a broken right tibia and fibia while training before the British round. The injury ruled him out of four rounds but he did return for the final three races to secure 10th place in the standings.

A move to the front-running Marc VDS squad in 2016 provided Morbidelli with a key year in his career which included eight podiums – five of them coming in the final five races – to see him become a title favourite for 2017.

The Italian lived up the billing with four wins from the opening five rounds to take control of the Moto2 title race. Wins followed at Assen, Sachsenring, Austria and Aragon allowing him to wrap up the title with a round to spare at Sepang when final championship rival Thomas Luthi was ruled out by injury.

Franco Morbidelli - MotoGP Career

Honda (2018)

Morbidelli duly secured a step-up to MotoGP with Marc VDS Honda after winning the Moto2 world title and despite unfavoured machinery he came out as top rookie in 2018.

Morbidelli, Valencia MotoGP 2018

The Italian’s charge to eighth place at Phillip Island was the standout moment of a consistent debut season in the premier class.

Yamaha (2019 - Present)

He was rewarded with a move to the new Petronas Yamaha squad for 2019, with the Italian becoming a consistent top 10 contender in his second season in MotoGP.

After shaking off an unfortunate clash with factory Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales at the second round in Argentina, Morbidelli impressed with fifth place at COTA.

Morbidelli followed that up with a maiden front row start, behind pole-sitting team-mate Fabio Quartararo at Jerez, with the Italian going on to record 11 top 10 finishes as he ended the season in 10th place in the final standings.

After being out-performed by Quartararo, the pair swapped positions in terms of Yamaha's heirarchy with the Frenchman making use of the on-spec M1, while Morbidelli used the 2020-2019 hybrid version of the machine. 

After a frustrating start to the year hampered by technical issues, Morbidelli began to come on strong in the mid-part of the year.

Coinciding with a general slump in form for the 2020-spec Yamahas, Morbidelli on a seemingly more compliant M1 found his feet with a maiden victory at Misano.

Franco Morbidelli, Aragon MotoGP. 16 October 2020

He followed this up with two more wins before the year was out in Aragon and Valencia as he emerged as Joan Mir's closest rival for the title, but he couldn't quite hunt down the Spaniard as he ended the year runner-up and as the highest-placed Yamaha rider.

Despite that success, Morbidelli remained on the same 2019-spec Yamaha M1 (A-Spec) for 2021 while new team-mate and VR46 mentor Valentino Rossi received the factory-spec bike.

Morbidelli optmistically hoped that the Covid techncial freeze might reduce his disadvantage, but once racing began it soon became clear that most of the factory teams (including Yamaha) had still taken a step forward with their 2021 modifications.

Nevertheless, Morbidelli took fourth place at round 3 in Portimao, then what would be his final Petronas podium next time at Jerez. It would also be the only Yamaha rostrum for a rider other than Fabio Quartararo in 2021.

But a more serious physical problem was emerging to dwarf even the technical issues. 

Morbidelli damaged knee ligaments during training and, while he tried to ride on, was eventually forced to withdraw and undergo major surgery just before the summer break.

While he was recovering (his seat taken by Garrett Gerloff, Cal Crutchlow and then Jake Dixon) everything changed.

First, Maverick Vinales negotiated a surprise split from the Factory Yamaha team at the end of the season, with Morbidelli soon moving into pole position as one  of the few capable riders available to take his place alongside Fabio Quartararo for 2022.

But Morbidelli wouldn't have to wait that long for his factory debut.

When Vinales left Yamaha with immediate effect after deliberately over-revving his engine in Austria, the reshuffle saw Morbidelli promoted to the factory team for the final five races ahead of a two-year factory deal until the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, Petronas had announced it would not renew its title sponsorship with SRT, forcing the team to be disbanded at the end of the season. A subsequent management split saw Razlan Razali form a new RNF Yamaha team for 2022, bringing in Andrea Dovizioso to replace Morbidelli for the end of 2021, ahead of a full 2022 season at RNF.

On track, Morbidelli's knee was far from fully recovered during his end-of-season Monster Yamaha appearances, which culiminated in eleventh place at the Valencia finale.

 

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