Having missed five races after undergoing knee ligament surgery, it was always going to be a tough MotoGP™ return for new Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP star Franco Morbidelli. And much like every rider, the Italian found Sunday’s race at the Circuit of The Americas incredibly difficult, with high temperatures and the track’s challenging layout taking its toll.
COTA is, arguably, the most demanding ribbon of asphalt on the calendar – especially when considering the bumps experienced across the three days in Austin. Every rider had to use every ounce of strength and energy to haul their machines around the Red Bull Grand Prix of The Americas 20-lap slog, with Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team) even describing the race as tougher than Malaysia or Thailand’s humid contests.
For Morbidelli then, it was always going to be one of his toughest battles. And so it turned out. Chatting after the race to motogp.com, the 2020 World Championship runner-up admitted he had to slow down after eight laps to make the finish, and his physical condition is not yet up to scratch to meet the demands that COTA presented.
“Very tough, very physical track and very physical conditions and unfortunately I wasn’t able to maintain a steady pace for the whole race, after eight laps I needed to slow down in order to finish the race. It’s like this, my physical condition at the moment isn’t ideal to race here at COTA with these temperatures and this kind of track,” explained Morbidelli.
The likeable three-time premier class race winner crossed the line in P19 in Austin, but 2021 isn’t really about the results for Morbidelli. Getting back to full fitness and learning the 2021-spec YZR-M1 are the number one targets before heading into the winter, and despite the struggles faced, the number 21 rider confirmed that it was a good weekend overall.
“But overall it’s been a good weekend. We improved the speed and the feeling with the bike, and I have two more weeks to heal up and work out better, to work out more for Misano 2. This is positive and we go ahead.”
These two weekends off before a return to the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli are like gold dust for Morbidelli. A race winner at his home circuit in 2020, Morbidelli probably couldn’t have wished for a better schedule post-Austin. Two weeks of resting and training before tackling a less physically demanding track, which he knows like the back of his hand, is perfect preparation for the rest of this season.
We shouldn’t expect Morbidelli to be pulling up any trees between now and the end of the season, but continual steady progress with fitness and the feeling on his bike will stand the 26-year-old in great stead ahead of 2022.
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