Sunday’s race winner praised his crew for adjusting his bike to suit the shock so quickly. His crew chief is Ramon Forcada, who has been fettling M1s since 2008, first with Jorge Lorenzo, then with Maverick Viñales. Two years ago Forcada – some call him the Spanish Jeremy Burgess – was sacked by Viñales, who seemed to blame him for his inconsistency.
Morbidelli and Forcada didn’t set the world alight like Petronas team-mate Quartararo last year, but they have forged a very close and respectful relationship which is now bearing fruit.
“With Ramon we are able to make the right steps at the right times,” says Morbidelli.
“It’s very nice working with Franco,” says Forcada. “He always tries to improve his riding style, so he doesn’t just ask us to improve the bike. He follows a little what Jorge was doing but he’s trying to improve what Jorge was doing – he tries to be better on the brakes but also keeping the corner speed.”
Morbidelli’s Aragon win was his third visit to the podium in the last nine races, while the two riders immediately ahead of him in the championship – Quartararo and Viñales –have each managed just one podium finish during that time.
Quartararo and Viñales have 2020 Yamahas, while Morbidelli has updated 2019 bikes. The latest M1 definitely seems fickler than its predecessor. Perhaps the bike’s ultimate performance level is higher, but getting it inside the Michelin window, with the company’s complex 2020 rear slick and the messed-up Covid-19 season, isn’t easy.
By the way – and it’s almost certainly only coincidence – each of the manufacturers that puts 2019 and 2020 bikes on the grid saw their second-hand bikes perform best: Morbidelli, fifth-placed Johann Zarco on his Ducati GP19 and pole-sitter Nakagami’s 2019 Honda RC213V.
Viñales and Quartararo took the chequered flag together on Sunday, in seventh and eighth, 14sec behind Morbidelli, both of them confused and frustrated.
“In the race after three laps I lost completely everything,” said Viñales. “I had no more grip in the bike and a lot of chatter. The problem was the tyres or the setting or whatever. The 2020 bike is what we have – we need to face it. For sure it’s not the best bike we can have, but we will see in Valencia: fresh mind, trying to push, then we will see. If it’s not good, then we have to change something big.”
Quartararo had similar problems. “In warm-up we found something positive but in the race I lost everything,” he said. “From the first lap I had no feeling, no grip, no traction. I’m happy to leave Aragon because for two weeks here we struggled every day. I’m sure Valencia will be better for us, because there’s less tyre consumption there, so I think we will be fast and consistent, not like here. And I think we can take that feeling to Portimao, because Portimao was my favourite track.”
Quartararo and Viñales know they also need to work on their riding technique, because they’re slightly more aggressive on the bike than Morbidelli. Smoothing out their brake and throttle use might help them get more out of the Michelins, which work best when treated gently.