The Petronas SRT team arrived in MotoGP in 2019 with the Malaysian outfit putting its trust in riders Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli right from the start.
In an interview with Radio Ocotillo, Ramon Forcada reveals that the original plans were quite different: “Franky was to come to the team as the number 2 rider. Number 1, when this was all discussed for the first time in late 2018, was meant to be Jorge Lorenzo and then Dani Pedrosa... I spoke with Dani at the time in fact, and it was almost a done deal but then he decided to retire”, explains the Spanish crew chief.
"In all these pre-season talks, Franky was the second rider. When Dani decided not to continue, there was a change of roles and Franky became the number 1 rider with Fabio Quartararo signed up as the team’s number 2”, continues Forcada.
Forcada goes on to detail the initial months in the Malaysian garage: "In 2019 our bikes were the same but with a different development plan during the season. This was in accordance with the contracts, budgets and expectations. It was decided that Franky would have a full factory bike in 2019 and Fabio would have the same bike but without updates”.
2019, the explosion of ‘El Diablo’
During that season, it was Quartararo who stood out, while Morbidelli started to suffer. "So, what was going on? Well, Franky was coming from a season with Honda, without factory support and with significant defects. He was used to a bike that was totally different to the Yamaha", explains Forcada.
"Fabio came to MotoGP with no experience, a category virgin, and he did really well. He had an incredible season and Franky was in Fabio’s shadow, let’s say”.
Morbidelli’s mental work
After such a tough season, the Italian rider worked hard on his mental training. "He worked all winter in order to be able to believe in himself, to be able to withstand the tough times. If you build your confidence, telling yourself ‘I can do it’, but then you deflate as soon as you face the first problem then all you’ve done over those months is pointless”.
"It was much easier to work with him in 2020 because he was clear about the fact that the races are run on Sunday, that the bikes are never perfect and that you have to work knowing that the team has a plan, that everyone knows what we are doing. This is very important”, concludes Forcada.
Translated by Heather Watson