The first race after the summer break will see retired racers returning to the MotoGP grid. After Dani Pedrosa was confirmed as a wildcard at the Styria GP at Spielberg, Cal Crutchlow has now officially been confirmed as replacing Franco Morbidelli at both races in Austria and at his home Grand Prix at Silverstone. Today, the Petronas Yamaha SRT team issued a press release announcing Crutchlow for the next three races. Morbidelli is absent after having surgery on his left knee to fix an issue with his ACL.
Racing at Austria will not be easy for Crutchlow, MotoGP veteran and now official Yamaha tester. The 2019 Yamaha M1 is the slowest bike on the grid by some margin, an important factor at the Spielberg circuit. It will be a good base to get up to speed for his home race at Silverstone: there has been at least one Yamaha on the podium at the Northamptonshire circuit at every race held at the track since its return to the Grand Prix calendar in 2010.
The fact that Crutchlow is to replace Franco Morbidelli for the next three rounds points to the Italian prioritizing his recovery from ACL surgery over the 2021 MotoGP season. This could be read as a clear indication that Morbidelli is in line to move up to the factory Yamaha team in 2022, taking the place of the departing Maverick Viñales. Morbidelli is clearly the best option for the seat, having proved his worth by finishing second in the championship in 2020.
What will become of Viñales is less clear, with no word of where the Spaniard might land for 2022. Similarly, the search for a replacement (or two) at Petronas is also far from settled.
The Petronas Yamaha press release appears below:
Crutchlow to join PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team for next three races
Cal Crutchlow will stand-in for the recovering Franco Morbidelli at Styrian, Austrian and British GPs
PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team welcomes Cal Crutchlow to the Malaysian squad as stand-in for Franco Morbidelli while the Italian rider continues his recovery from left knee surgery.
Crutchlow will take part in the two Grands Prix in Austria, held at Spielberg, and the BritishGP at Silverstone – his home race.
Crutchlow is no stranger to Yamaha MotoGP machinery, having started his premier class career with the Japanese marque in 2011 – spending three seasons aboard the Yamaha – and is now the official factory test and development rider.
Razlan Razali, Team Principal, PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
After looking at all the options, it was a collective decision between Yamaha and ourselves to ask Cal Crutchlow to fill in for Franco, while he recovers from surgery. Cal is a credible and experienced rider, who is currently a test rider for Yamaha. As an independent team, this is where we can really step up to help Yamaha. Cal will be able to rack up some good mileage on our M1, which should aid him with his testing and development work for Yamaha. Cal will replace Franco for the next three races and we have no real targets for him in terms of results. We will do all we can to help support him and make him feel comfortable in the team. He’s already familiar with some of the key people in the team, which helps, and I’m sure he’s up for the challenge.
Cal Crutchlow, PETRONAS Yamaha Sepang Racing Team
It’s great to be back riding with Yamaha this year as the official test rider and to be able to step in when needed is good for all parties. I’m looking forward to riding for PETRONAS Yamaha SRT in the three Grands Prix. Obviously it’s not in the best circumstances and I wish Franco a good recovery, I hope he comes back strongly after the knee surgery. I’m sure he will because he’s been riding fantastically over the last two years.
I think it’s difficult to set targets for these three races and it will be more about understanding the bike, as I’ve had limited riding days this year. The good thing will be that I can compare the bikes and I should be able to gather a lot of data for Yamaha. It’s a bit like being thrown in the deep end, as it’s a very competitive MotoGP class, but I’m really looking forward to it and it’s going to be good to be back on the grid.
I’m looking forward to meeting the team in Austria, although there will be some familiar faces for me because Wilco Zeelenberg was my Team Manager in Supersport in 2009 and I actually raced against Johan Stigefelt some years ago, so it’s going to be a pleasure to be back with them.