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Morbidelli is “full of happiness” after finishing fourth in MotoGP

( – “It feels so good. I’m full of happiness,” said Franco Morbidelli after finishing fourth in the sprint race in Argentina. The Yamaha rider, who was vice-champion of the world in 2020, had a difficult time in which he was unable to live up to the expectations of the team, nor his own.

Morbidelli pulled ahead at the start but was forced to backtrack at Turn 1

His last podium was two years ago: he finished third in Jerez in 2021, at that time with Petronas Yamaha. A long break followed due to a knee injury.

When he came back, he was promoted to the factory Yamaha team midway through the season. This had recently parted ways with Maverick Viñales. But instead of regaining his old strength, Morbidelli went downhill. Last year, the Italian only made the top ten twice in 20 races.

And at the season opener in Portimao a week ago, he languished with a 14th place in the sprint and sprint. His performance in Argentina was even more surprising.

Morbidelli was already able to put himself in the spotlight on Friday and he moved straight into Q2. He suspected the low level of grip suited him and his driving style – while teammate Fabio Quartaro struggles and is always classified behind.

Morbidelli even briefly took the lead

This impression was confirmed on Saturday. Not only did Morbidelli qualify fourth on the grid, he equaled that result in the sprint race, which he led at times. In the end, he was only beaten by race winner Brad Bender on a KTM and Ducatis, Marco Bizzicki and Luca Marini.

“It was a good start, but I got a little excited in the first corner,” the Yamaha rider recalled. He got the best hole, but then had to back off.

“There was a big wet spot. I got a little scared and took another line and lost first place,” he explains. “But I managed to get it back and led the race for a few laps. It felt incredible.”

However, he lost the lead to Binder shortly thereafter. Although Morbidelli stayed at the start, he had to give up a bit on the final stage and let the VR46 pilots by. “We had less potential than Ducatis,” he admits. However, he was able to defend the fourth place against Aleix Marquez and Francesco Bagnaia.

“I tried to get the most out of it and get the best possible result at the end. I’m happy to finish fourth. The team deserves it because they’re working hard to catch up. These kinds of results, these kinds of performances motivate us to keep going,” the Yamaha rider confirms.

Praise be to Yamaha and Chancellor Marmorini

He praised the new M1 on one point in particular: “I can’t help but thank the team and our engineer Marmorini. They’ve done a really great job improving the engine. We have a lot of potential this year in that regard.”

Background: In mid-2022, Yamaha hired former Ferrari engineer Luca Marmorini to fix the bike’s biggest weakness: the engine.

There are still areas the team needs to work on. But: “The engine is a great foundation to build on,” says Morbidelli. “It was difficult to overtake us and we have to take that as a positive thing because they usually let us stand on the straights.”

“Let’s see if we can work out our other problems throughout the year. I keep my feet on the ground and think from race to race. If we can confirm that performance tomorrow and in Austin, we can think about it, build on that build and go further.”