Franco Morbidelli hasn’t had a lucky 2021 season so far, currently resting up after knee surgery, but despite this his future appears very bright. The strong results he scored in 2020 haven’t gone unnoticed, and it appears (quite predictably) that #21 will replace Maverick Vinales on the factory team’s Yamaha M1.
A rumour that had been circulating in the paddock for weeks, but that is now confirmed by Razlan Razali, owner of the Petronas team that currently fields Morbidelli.
“Although it’s not yet official – explains Razali - Franco should replace Maverick Vinales in 2022. It’s a natural pathway as well as Franco’s dream, so it wouldn’t be right to deny him this opportunity. As a team, we’ve given him our OK, any developments now depend on Yamaha and VR46, which manages him”.
Room for the youngsters
With Morbidelli expected to move to the factory team and Valentino Rossi looking likely to retire, Razali is forced to look around and seek new riders that meet specific criteria. Paddock radio has thrown out all kinds of names, from Andrea Dovizioso to Jonathan Rea, but the Malaysian team boss is of a different opinion.
“I don’t want to disrespect Valentino Rossi, but we don’t want to find ourselves in a similar situation next year. Valentino has improved compared to last year, but he’s currently struggling to reach the points zone. Dovizioso would be coming off a year’s break, which would clash with the current level. So we’d prefer to consider youngsters that we can help develop, like with Quartararo, to help them gain experience in the category”.
One rider that comes to mind is Raul Fernandez, a key player on the Moto2 market, but firstly there would be the KTM obstacle to overcome and, secondly, would the Spaniard even want to move up after what would be only one year in the intermediate class, albeit at a very high level?
Another name that could fit Razali’s bill is that of Marco Bezzecchi, although he is linked to the newly created VR46 team, and therefore dependent on its decision. So the future Petronas riders remain a mystery, soon to be solved no doubt.
Translated by Heather Watson