1 week ago
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Tensions between Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) and Yamaha look to be fraught following a disappointing start to the 2021 MotoGP™ World Championship that saw last year's runner-up slump to 18th. A problem with his Yamaha M1 moments before the lights went out in Qatar, believed to be with his holeshot device, saw the three-time race winner quickly drop backwards and out of points contention on the opening lap.
Speaking after the season-opener in Qatar to motogp.com, Morbidelli pointed the finger at Yamaha: "I know I'm not on the top of Yamaha's list at the moment," said an irate Italian, clearly feeling both Monster Energy Yamaha men Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Viñales, plus teammate Valentino Rossi, are ahead of him in the pecking order despite last year's heroics.
The former Moto2™ World Champion is one of only three men on the grid not to be riding 2021 machinery, along with premier class rookies Enea Bastianini (Esponsorama Racing) and Luca Marini (SKY VR46 Esponsorama).
Morbidelli miffed as he and Rossi struggle
In 2020, he was able to make the most of a 12-month-old package to finish just 13 points adrift of eventual World Champion Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar). But, as nearly every other rider on the grid made a step forwards with new machinery for 2021, Morbidelli has stood still and is now two years behind the rest by continuing to ride predominantly a 2019 Yamaha M1.
Morbidelli's jibes at Yamaha after the race then continued as he questioned how bothered the Iwata factory would be that he suffered an issue during the race: "I don't know with what rush they will take this problem," said the Petronas Yamaha SRT man. "But I hope they will take it with a lot of seriousness."
Morbidelli won't be riding a 2021 bike for the rest of the year, with rules forbidding him from receiving an upgrade halfway through the year. Instead, he will remain on the 'A-spec' Yamaha M1, different from the 'factory-spec' machines that Qatar GP winner Viñales, plus Quartararo and Rossi, ride.
There is no doubt that the Italian will bounce back and we won't see him languishing outside of the points very often. But the relationship between Yamaha and himself does appear strained following the out-of-character outburst on Sunday night.
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