The season-long game of musical chairs continues in Yamaha’s MotoGP camp with the news that Andrea Dovizioso will replace Franco Morbidelli in the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team, as Morbidelli’s been promoted to the Factory squad, the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team, with immediate effect. And it’s the San Marino Grand Prix this weekend.
Morbidelli’s promotion to the factory team should come as no surprise really. He was already down to move up in 2022, but with Viñales playing silly buggers and jumping ship half way through the season, there was an early vacancy. Morbz might not have done much in 2021 (he’s missed the last five GPs through injury), but don’t forget he won three races last year and finished second in the championship. Once he’s back up to full fitness, don’t be surprised to see him back on the podium, now he’s on a decent bike.
“I’m very pleased and happy about facing this weekend and this highly anticipated new chapter with the Factory Yamaha team. I’ve been trying to recover as much as possible for the final stage of this championship. I wanted to make my comeback at a track I know well and have great memories of, like Misano.
“I’m looking forward to jumping on the bike and starting my journey with the Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP Team. Of course, I need and I want to thank all the people who made this happen, starting with Ito-san, Lin, Maio, Sumi-san, the VR46 Riders Academy, and all other people who made this collaboration possible.”
But the big news is surely Dovizioso returning to MotoGP. And it’s not just a one-off ride. The former 125cc world champ will finish the 2021 season with the Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team before continuing with Yamaha’s satellite team in 2022. Interestingly, the press release states that during the 2022 season, Dovizioso will ride a factory-spec YZR-M1 MotoGP bike, and receive full support from Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd. That sounds better than the second-rate thing Morbidelli has been struggling on for the last 18 months, but that’s another story.
“Although I didn’t expect to be back in MotoGP like this, I never closed the door on it and it’s good to be here with Yamaha and Petronas Yamaha SRT. I wanted to try to enjoy a new situation and I’m really happy to be back. It will be interesting to be on a completely different bike to what I rode before and I’m looking forward to the experience. I visited the team in Aragon and it felt almost like it was 2012 again and sitting on the Yamaha bike felt just as good.
It was great to have a first sit on the bike and do the initial adjustments, so that we’re already one step ahead of FP1 here at Misano. I will need to get on track to understand the details and it would have been better to have had a test before jumping into a race, but I start with no pressure and it will be great to get going in Misano for the final five races of the season.
“Racing with Yamaha has always been my dream, and that’s why when the opportunity arrived I did not think twice, although I know it’s going to be a tough challenge for me. I’ve got many things ahead of me to learn: a new bike, a new team, a new working system. It‘s a big challenge that starts at Misano, my home GP. This makes it even more exciting. I can’t wait to be aboard my M1!”
Lin Jarvis (Yamaha Racing Boss) on Franco
“First of all, we want to thank Petronas Yamaha SRT for allowing Franky to make his dream come true and letting him step up to the Factory team ahead of schedule. Originally, we had planned for Franky to move up from 2022 on, but following a sudden rider line-up change mid-season, we had the chance to let him upgrade early.
“Secondly, I want to give a warm welcome to Franky. He is an exceptional talent. This was even further highlighted last year when he secured second place in the championship and achieved five podiums and three wins on the satellite Yamaha. It shows the type of rider that he is: committed to extracting the best from the YZR-M1 under all circumstances. Naturally, we‘re thrilled that Franky will be back in the paddock and that he is well enough to start racing again. He will have to find his form gradually, in line with his physical improvements, as he is still recovering. We’ll be using the remainder of 2021 to get him settled in the team and comfortable on the bike.
“We’ve already locked down our plans for 2022 and 2023, with Franky receiving full Factory backing from Yamaha Motor Company. We feel certain that a skilled, calm, and experienced rider like Franky will strengthen the Yamaha Factory Racing MotoGP Team and will enjoy great success in the future.”
Lin Jarvis on Dovi
“And we are delighted that a MotoGP star and talent like Andrea is joining the Yamaha line-up. We warmly welcome Dovizioso to the Yamaha MotoGP group as a very important member of our MotoGP programme. We’ve found ourselves in unprecedented circumstances this year that resulted in totally unexpected rider issues for both Yamaha teams. We experienced some unforeseen and unfortunate events, but we have been able to transform the problems into new opportunities.
“Andrea has been away from MotoGP for a short sabbatical, but we are certain that a rider of his calibre will soon find his speed again. We are really looking forward to working with him as a member of Yamaha‘s satellite team, and we will be supporting him in every way we can.”
By the sounds of it, barring any more injuries or teddies out of prams, Yamaha have got their rider line up sorted for the rest of 2021, but who knows what’s going to happen. And who knows who will be at the other side of Dovi’s garage. There’s still a vacant spot in Yamaha’s satellite pit-box, with all sorts of names linked to it; but there’s been no confirmation from Yamaha as yet. Who’s your money on?