Franco Morbidelli

Lin Jarvis Interview: On Quartararo's Championship, Yamaha's Season, Satellite Teams, And Sprint Races in 2023

2022 has been a strange year for Yamaha. It started off on the wrong foot, when the Japanese factory was forced to give up on the more powerful engine they had intended to race this season and run a revised version of the 2021 engine (which, thanks to the Covid-19 engine freeze, was basically the 2020 engine) for this year.

Despite the obvious lack of engine performance, by the time MotoGP reached the summer break after Assen, Fabio Quartararo had a comfortable lead in the championship, sitting ahead of Aleix Espargaro by 21 points, and the man billed as his main title rival for 2022, Pecco Bagnaia, by 66 points.

Elsewhere, there were signs of trouble. While Quartararo was winning races and leading the championship, his Monster Energy Yamaha Franco Morbidelli was struggling just to score points. Over at the RNF team, Andrea Dovizioso jumped on a Yamaha only to find he had spent too long on a Ducati to be able to figure out how to ride it, and retired again after Misano. Darryn Binder had a big hill to climb going straight to MotoGP from Moto3, and found himself crashing along the way. And after the summer break, RNF announced they would be switching to Aprilia for the 2023 season.

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Sepang MotoGP Subscriber Notes, Part 2: Aprilia's Dream Ends, Morbidelli vs Espargaro, Arm Pump For Mir, And Spinning KTMs

While most of the focus from Sunday's race at Sepang was on the battle at the front – understandably, as the championship (nearly) got settled – there was plenty to learn from events further down the field as well.

The battle at the front left only Pecco Bagnaia and Fabio Quartararo standing in the battle for the championship. Enea Bastianini may have finished second, but Bagnaia's victory put the Gresini Ducati rider out of contention.

Sepang also saw the end of the dream for Aleix Espargaro and Aprilia as well. A tenth place finish (eleventh crossing the line, but given a place after his clash with Franco Morbidelli, more of which anon) put him 46 points behind Bagnaia, and out of reach of the MotoGP championship.

End of a dream

"I'm very disappointed today. I'm very sad," Espargaro said after the race. But he was proud of everything he and Aprilia have achieved this year. "I'm very proud of everybody in Aprilia, of myself, of my teammate of everybody in Noale. What we did this year is amazing, historic, it will be forever. It will last for ever."

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Sepang MotoGP Subscriber Notes: How (Not) To Win A Championship, And A Morbidelli Revival

Winning a MotoGP championship is hard. Arguably, the individual riders championship is the hardest title in the world to win. Apart from the basics – talent, and the opportunity to develop it – you also need to have persuaded a factory team with a competitive bike that they should sign you to race for them. You need the right people around you, and the right tools to take on the very best riders in the world, on the fast racing motorcycles ever built.

That last part, getting on a competitive bike, may be one of the hardest parts. Even with six factories and twelve seats (to be reduced to five factories next year), getting to join the right factory at the right time is tough. It is easy for factories to take the wrong direction, and go from being competitive to struggling. Yamaha's botched engine upgrade this year is evidence of that. Or Honda's radical update to the RC213V which has improved one weakness while removing the bike's greatest strength.

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Sepang MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Of Pressure, Tows, Bumps, And Championships

There is a cliché about sports events having a "pressure cooker atmosphere", but in the case of the Sepang MotoGP race, it is almost literally true. A combination of withering heat, completely saturated humidity, and incredible pressure is cooking up an explosive climax to the MotoGP championship.

With a championship on the line, the pressure is plain to see. In the previous 18 races, Pecco Bagnaia had just 12 crashes. On Saturday, he added another two to that tally. Fabio Quartararo has had six crashes in the 18 races before this weekend, and added another during FP4, fracturing a finger in his left hand in the process. Likewise Aleix Espargaro, who has added another two crashes this weekend, taking his total to 13. For the record, the current crash leader is Darryn Binder, with 22.

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Buriram MotoGP Saturday Round Up: Are Eight Fast Ducatis Too Much Of A Good Thing For Pecco Bagnaia?

Saturday at Buriram gave us a glimpse of the future. If you want to know what the sprint races will look like next year, look no further than the fact that Ducati have secured their sixth front-row lockout of the season, that there were five Ducatis in the first two rows, and that there were two more on the third row. It was the thirteenth time a Ducati qualified on pole this year, in seventeen events.

Only Fabio Quartararo (Indonesia), Aleix Espargaro (Argentina and Barcelona), and Marc Marquez (Motegi) have prevented Ducati from sweeping an entire season's worth of poles. Pecco Bagnaia is just two races away from winning the BMW M award as best qualifier, which features seven Ducati riders in the top nine.

The bike really does play a very large role in that dominance of qualifying. With his breathtaking last lap, breaking Fabio Quartararo's pole record from 2019, Marco Bezzecchi became the seventh Ducati rider to secure pole this year. Only Bezzecchi's Mooney VR46 teammate Luca Marini is letting the side down, though Marini has been close, starting from the front row twice this year.

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Buriram MotoGP Friday Round Up: Fast Ducatis, Miller's Improvement, Marquez' Poetry In Motion, And 21 Races In 2023

The MotoGP paddock had been looking fearfully at weather forecasts the entire week, and well into the night. Some of them drove through flooded roads to arrive at the Buriram circuit in Thailand, a week after losing Saturday to the rain at Motegi. MotoGP feared another washout.

Instead, they appear to have dodged a bullet. There were a couple of rain showers, and some half-wet, half-dry conditions for Moto3 and Moto2, but MotoGP had two sessions of pretty much completely dry practice. And looking at the weather forecast for tomorrow, there is every chance of it being dry again on Saturday. But also, every chance of rain.

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Measuring Progress: How Much Faster Did MotoGP Bikes Get In The Past Three Years?

After an absence of three years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, MotoGP is returning to the circuits in Asia and Australia. A lot has happened in those three years in terms of motorcycle development; there has been a sea change in the way that bikes are controlled, as ride-height devices have been introduced to aid acceleration and braking, and engineers have gotten a better understanding of aerodynamics, sufficient to start gaining in the corner, as well as on entry and exit.

When MotoGP raced in Argentina for the first time since 2019 earlier this year, Aleix Espargaro's winning time of 41:36.198 was more than 7.5 seconds faster than the 41:43.688 Marc Marquez took to win in 2019. Argentina, however, is not a great basis for comparison, as the track sees very little use in between races, and the condition of the surface can change a lot.

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Aragon MotoGP Friday Round Up: A Tough Track For Tires, A Rider Returns, And New Parts Shenanigans

By now, you will have heard the MotoGP mantra a thousand times. "It's only Friday," everyone says after the first day of practice. "It's only Friday, but for sure it's better to first than to be fifteenth," was Jorge Martin's addendum, after ending the first day at the top of the timesheets.

It may only be Friday, but we still learned plenty, though maybe not about who is going to win the race on Sunday. A lot can still happen between then and now. But the riders and teams now have a better idea of what they are facing.

The biggest challenge this weekend is going to be the tires. The asphalt at the Motorland Aragon Circuit is probably the oldest on the calendar, having not been resurfaced since the circuit was built back in 2009. Asphalt changes with age: the bitumen which binds the aggregate together evaporates very slowly, eventually leaving sizable gaps between the stones.

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Misano MotoGP Friday Round Up: Changing Conditions, Bagnaia's Rough Start, Viñales Velocity, And Making Sense Of The Fan Survey

Coming into the weekend, the weather was one of the biggest worries for the MotoGP paddock. At the start of the week, it seemed like we might be looking at a complete washout. The forecast has cleared up notably since then, but the weather still had a major effect on the start of the Misano Grand Prix. Heavy rain on Wednesday and Thursday left the track very green, and difficult to negotiate in the morning.

"This morning it was slick. FP1 especially, the first couple of runs it was really greasy," Brad Binder said on Friday afternoon. But a day of good weather and a very busy schedule – in addition to the three grand prix classes, there is also MotoE and the FIM Junior GP World Championship, or CEV Moto3 championship as was – meant conditions were much better in the afternoon. "In FP2 it was like another circuit. It's crazy how quickly the track can change, I didn't expect it," Binder said.

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Misano MotoGP Thursday Preview: A Yamaha In Ducati's Den, Why Team Orders Are Nonsense, And KTM's Troubling Attitude To Talent

With seven races left in the 2022 MotoGP season, we are approaching the final stretch. There are 175 points left to play for, and Fabio Quartararo has a lead of 32 points over Aleix Espargaro. That means that Espargaro still has his fate in his own hands: he can become 2022 MotoGP champion by the simple expedient of winning every MotoGP race left, and if Quartararo finishes second in all seven races, the Aprilia rider would take his first championship by a slim margin of 3 points.

Pecco Bagnaia has to rely on the help of others if he is to become champion. The Italian is 44 points behind Quartararo, which means he will need someone to get in between himself and Quartararo on more than one occasion.

So it's a good job MotoGP is at Misano this weekend. For Bagnaia, this is very much his home track, the Italian riding here regularly as part of the VR46 Academy on road bikes. And Bagnaia has help on his side: Luca Marini and Marco Bezzecchi are also VR46 Academy riders, and Ducati stablemates. (Franco Morbidelli, the fourth VR46 rider, will not be helping Bagnaia. But then, given his form this year, he is unlikely to be in a situation to help his Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo.)

Like the back of their hands

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