Five days before the first MotoGP pre-season test gets underway, team Petronas SRT has finally been presented, complete with its two very strong riders, fellow Italians and good friends. The paths of Franco Morbidelli and Valentino Rossi will cross as team-mates for the first time this season and the pairing looks promising for now.
“Morbido” comes to the track as vice-champion, the only rider able to exploit the Yamaha M1 and achieve the desired results last year. He did even better than Fabio Quartararo, despite having won the same number of races and ridden a non-official bike - unlike the Frenchman. So it’s impossible not to count him among this year’s title contenders, safe in the knowledge that he won’t be intimidated by his mentor.
Franco himself confirmed this theory in a post dedicated to Valentino Rossi and his arrival in the world championship, in which Rossi played a role: “Eight years ago, this man and his friends decided to make my dream a possibility. Things don’t always go as you expect! Today, thanks to them, the reality is better than anything I ever wanted. I’m sure that battling against Valentino will be one of the toughest and happiest challenges of my career. I hope you guys enjoy it”.
Franco is ready
Having Valentino at his side will give him real motivation, rather than pressure, as well as providing him an opportunity. Who better than the Doctor to teach him other tricks of the trade? At 42, Valentino is about to embark on his 26th world championship season, possibly his last, and despite this he is still competitive. Rather than two rivals, perhaps we’ll see two riders who spur each other on more than ever, as they did last year (and as they often do at the Ranch).
Franco will also have to get used to the constant media attention surrounding his new team-mate. But this is unlikely to bother him enough to condition his performance on track. Having spent 2019 in Quartararo’s shadow, the Italo-Brazilian is stronger from a psychological point of view and has grown thanks to crew chief Ramon Forcada, achieving the perfect balance in 2020. Exactly what he needs to fight for the title and battle Valentino Rossi on equal terms.
Translated by Heather Watson