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Lewis Duncan

Morbidelli to leave Yamaha MotoGP team after 2023 season

Morbidelli has been associated with Yamaha since 2019, when he joined the Petronas SRT satellite squad in 2019 having made his premier class debut in 2018 with Marc VDS Honda.

Having been resoundingly beaten by rookie team-mate Fabio Quartararo in 2019 on lesser machinery, Morbidelli bounced back in 2020 to win three grands prix and finish runner-up in the championship to Suzuki’s Joan Mir.

Morbidelli was due to start 2020 with factory machinery at SRT, but was given Yamaha’s ‘A-spec’ bike instead – which was essentially its 2019 model.

Despite his 2020 results, he remained on the 2019-spec bike and struggled for form, scoring one podium in the first half of the season before a knee injury forced him out from the Dutch GP through to the San Marino round.

When he returned, he was a factory team Yamaha rider having been signed to replace the ousted Maverick Vinales.

But since his switch, Morbidelli has struggled to match his previous results, scoring a best of fourth in his two seasons at the factory Yamaha squad earlier this year in Argentina in the sprint and grand prix.

With doubts about his future swirling for some time already this year, Yamaha has announced on the eve of the British Grand Prix that it will part ways with the Italian at the end of 2023.

“First and foremost, I want to thank Franky for his hard work and dedication ever since he started with the factory team and also long before that when he was a satellite rider for Yamaha,” Yamaha managing director Lin Jarvis said.

Franco Morbidelli, Yamaha Factory Racing (Photo by: Gold and Goose / Motorsport Images)

“The Yamaha and Morbidelli partnership led to some great results, including an outstanding vice-champion title in 2020.

“It‘s a shame that the last two years didn‘t play out the way we both wanted and hoped for.

“We discussed the possibilities to continue our partnership, but ultimately we decided that 2024 would be a moment to make a change, both for Yamaha and for Franky.

“The team will proceed to fully support Franky in every way we can to close out our time spent together in the best possible way.”

Earlier this season, Morbidelli told Autosport in an exclusive interview that he felt he had the “trust” from Yamaha over being able to improve his situation to secure a deal for 2024.

At the Americas GP, Jarvis stated it was Yamaha’s first choice to retain Morbidelli, especially as it was unlikely to have a satellite squad in 2024 and needed an experienced rider.

In recent weeks, LCR Honda’s Alex Rins has been linked to Yamaha having been left unsatisfied with the level of support he has received from HRC, despite being its only race winner in a miserable 2023 for the marque.

Rins will be absent from this weekend’s British GP after badly breaking his leg at the Italian GP, and will be replaced by Iker Lecuona.

The current HRC World Superbike rider and former Tech3 MotoGP runner is thought to be under evaluation by Honda for a potential return to the premier class, which could now come in 2024 with Rins’ Yamaha move looking more plausible by the day.

It is unclear at this stage where Morbidelli’s future lies.

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