Franco Morbidelli is to race for the Monster Energy Yamaha team next year. Speaking to MotoMatters.com, Yamaha Motor Racing Managing Director Lin Jarvis confirmed that the Italian is to move up to the factory team for the 2022 season, once the details of the contract have been sorted out.
Jarvis was speaking to us as part of a much larger interview to be published after the Austrian round of MotoGP. Morbidelli's move to the factory team is a result of a situation which was hard to imagine at the start of the 2021 season. Back in January, Yamaha looked to have one of the strongest rider line ups in MotoGP.
"It's a kind of a unique situation," Jarvis said. "If you look at how we started this season, we had Quartararo, Viñales on two-year contracts, we had Valentino on a one-year contract with an option for the future, and Morbidelli on a two-year contract. Now that's a pretty strong package. You've got three young, very, very talented riders – Franco was second in the championship last year, Fabio's talent is known, and Maverick is one of the fastest guys out there, plus Valentino. So you can't really say that we didn't have a strong rider package."
One expected, one unexpected
The season took a different turn, however. The retirement of Valentino Rossi had been planned for, the Italian having said from the start of the year that he would make a decision based on his results. "Valentino's results have been disappointing this year, for him and for us, and so finally, that is the conclusion," Jarvis acknowledged. "These young guys are so damned fast, and if the blade is not 100% sharp, then it doesn't cut it any more, literally."
The loss of Maverick Viñales was very different. It was a situation which developed quickly, and could not have been planned for at the start of 2021. "The fact that Valentino might retire at the end of the year was a known factor and risk, OK. But then Viñales suddenly decided to stop, left us a little bit exposed, looking at it now," Jarvis said.
"But we're not panicking about it. We are going to move Morbidelli to the factory team, so the factory team is going to be strong next year," Jarvis told us. Though the paperwork was still to be finalized, the decision had already been made.
Looking to the future
That left two seats in the Petronas team to fill. "We're going to work together with the Petronas team to put together the best package that fits our future needs and their needs as well, with their sponsorship and their partners," Jarvis said. "But it's not simple, because most of the good guys are already signed up to contracts."
It was a relatively short-term problem, however, with the rider market expected to open up when the current cycle of two-year contracts ends. "The next window of opportunity will come for 2023/2024, when many of the top riders will come available again. So I'm not really worried about it," Jarvis said.
Yamaha's position is very different to that of KTM, who have a full development path all the way from the Spanish championship. But it was not an approach Yamaha would take, Jarvis explained. "I fully respect KTM's situation, they have a very strong program, they've done a good job. They have the Red Bull Rookies Cup first, they have a Moto3 bike, so they get access to the young talent, they sign up the riders when they are very, very young, and they put them on all-inclusive contracts. They can move them up to Moto3, Moto2, and eventually up into MotoGP. So they have a very full program that we don't have. And also, I would say Suzuki is in the same situation as us, so is Aprilia, so are Ducati. So we're not alone."
Yamaha's talent pool
Not having Moto3 and Moto2 teams of their own did not mean Yamaha does not have access to young talent, however. "It means that we have to go about it in a different way," Jarvis said. "But we have certain systems in place. We work together with the VR46 Academy to look at their talent. And obviously with the Petronas team, having a Moto3 and a Moto2 program, that's part of the future plan."
Jarvis also confirmed that they are very close to signing a deal with Petronas, to continue supplying them with MotoGP machinery beyond 2021 and into the future. "We will sign with [Petronas] once we get all of our paperwork sorted out, we will sign with them for another three-year term," Jarvis said. "And we'll work together with them even more in the future, to try to pick up and spot young talent as it comes through the ranks."
While Jarvis was confident that Yamaha have their own systems in place to develop talent, he expressed admiration for KTM for the program the Austrian factory has put together. "But on the other side, chapeau to KTM for having such a strong package." Jarvis even joked about the abundance of talented riders KTM currently appear to have. "I've offered to take some of their excess talent off them if they find it's too much of a burden, but so far they haven't accepted," he laughed.
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