Franco Morbidelli says it felt “wonderful” to grab his first MotoGP rostrum of the year in the Spanish Grand Prix despite running a two year old bike.
The ’20 vice champion suffered a tough start of the year in Qatar after only managing to capture a total of four points across both encounters, while a decent return to form in Portugal netted him a solid fourth.
A blistering run to second on the grid at Jerez behind factory Yamaha racer Fabio Quartararo promised much, and Morbidelli duly delivered as he bagged a hard –earned third place behind Ducati duo Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia despite campaigning an aging ’19-spec Yamaha M1.
Morbidelli reckoned that he and his Petronas SRT team “going out of our comfort zone” was key to extracting the extra performance needed to secure his debut ’21 podium appearance against his rivals running newer machinery, adding that he believes the level of competition has got “harder for sure” compared to last season.
“It was an incredible race, I pushed so hard throughout, there were very few braking points where I was sure I was going to be able to stop, the others were a complete question mark,” said Morbidelli.
“It feels wonderful to be on the podium with what we have (two year old Yamaha), the championship (level) got harder this year for sure and we needed to step up our game in order to achieve the same results we could get last year.
“I think we are doing that by going out of our comfort zone and risking a lot, but it paid off in Portimao and it worked out today so I’m really enjoying this moment a lot.”
The ’17 Moto2 world champion credited a last-minute “magic” change to his M1 by crew chief Ramon Forcada in morning warm-up ahead of the Spanish GP on Sunday as making his podium charge possible, the Italian explaining he was ride with extra “aggression” relative to earlier in the weekend.
“I was able to give my extra and was rewarded with this podium, the team did a wonderful job and Ramon (Forcada, Morbidelli’s crew chief) made a last magic modification this morning and I was able to increase my feeling with the bike a little and I was able to ride it with more aggression,” continued Morbidelli.
“We definitely increased the grip this morning and it really paid off, in the race there was less grip overall but the modification we did allowed us to not feel it so much so I’m very pleased to get a strong result.”