Morbidelli will end the 2021 season as a factory Yamaha rider having been promoted from Petronas SRT to take the seat formerly occupied by Maverick Vinales before his axing last month.
On Thursday, Yamaha also confirmed it had signed Morbidelli onto a two-year factory deal through to the end of 2023.
Morbidelli was the top Yamaha runner in 2020, coming second in the standings with three victories, despite riding effectively the 2019 bike, having had the works support he was meant to have changed at the start of the year.
Despite his 2020 success, Yamaha kept him on the ‘A-spec’ version of the M1, with Morbidelli still able to manage a podium at Jerez and a fourth in Portugal on a two-year-old bike before injury curtailed his season in June.
When asked by Autosport ahead of this weekend’s San Marino Grand Prix – which Morbidelli won last year – if he felt he was owed factory status given everything he’s been through at SRT, he replied: “I felt I deserved it. I felt I definitely deserved it, and I spoke openly with all the people inside Yamaha.
“Finally, we’re here. So, they didn’t owe me anything, I just felt I deserved something, but for sure Yamaha didn’t owe me anything.”
Franco Morbidelli, Petronas Yamaha SRT
Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images
Morbidelli admits the situation with Vinales’ suspension and ultimately the immediate end of his relationship with Yamaha “added some pepper” to things in MotoGP, but refused to divulge exactly what he thought it could have meant for his own career at the time.
The Italian has been absent since the Dutch TT in June after undergoing an operation on a knee injury he sustained earlier in the year in training.
Originally scheduled to miss three races, that hiatus turned into five grands prix, with Morbidelli admitting he is still struggling to bend his left knee.
“Well, we’ve been focusing quite a lot on the recovery,” Morbidelli said of his time on the sidelines with injury.
“The injury is not that big of a deal, it’s quite a usual injury, but it takes a long time to recover.
“So, we focused on forcing that recovery time. For sure the main thing is the knee bending, it’s difficult to bend the knee.
“But we’ve been forcing and we’ve been focusing quite a lot that, and also keeping an eye on the overall physical shape. We will see this weekend what job we have done.”
Morbidelli confirmed he will work with Vinales’ crew chief Silvano Galbusera for the rest of the 2021 campaign and will not bring Ramon Forcada back to the factory squad (having worked with Vinales previously, as well as Jorge Lorenzo) this year.
He says this was a team decision to avoid making further big changes amidst an already-chaotic period for both Yamaha and SRT.