He may not have a trophy to show for it, but the season-opening Jerez MotoGP races have proven to Franco Morbidelli that he has 'stepped up his game' and is now a 'much faster' and 'more consistent' rider.

Fifth and within one-second of a debut podium in the first Spanish race, the Petronas Yamaha rider looked even stronger in this weekend's second outing.

Riding the A-Spec M1, the only Yamaha without the new holeshot device, Morbidelli lost a position for seventh on the opening lap, but then climbed steadily up the order, overtaking Maverick Vinales for fourth on lap 11 of 25.

Morbidelli spent the next five laps sandwiched between the Factory Yamahas of Vinales and Valentino Rossi, but heartbreak was to follow when his engine lost power on the home straight on lap 16.

It was the third such failure for Yamaha so far this season.

Without it, Petronas team principal Razlan Razali believes Morbidelli not only had a strong chance of the podium but of completing a perfect one-two behind victorious team-mate Fabio Quartararo.

"It’s very unfortunate for Franky as I think it could have been a one-two for us today, but we need to see what the problem was. We feel so sorry for him because he was strong all weekend and deserved a good result," Razali said.

After the race, Morbidelli didn’t want to dwell on what might have been.

"I'm very happy about my level of riding," he said. "I saw that I improved in testing in Sepang and Qatar, but I wasn't sure if I could match that level in the races.

"These two races I have to say I've stepped up my game. I'm much faster than last year.

"I was feeling very good, very at ease and comfortable with the bike, fighting my way back to the top. I made a small mistake behind Vale but I was able to recover quite fast and I was ready for the final rush of the race. But unfortunately a technical problem stopped me.

"It came out of the blue. The bike just stopped and we don’t know why. But it came out of the blue. It can happen in racing. Now we've got to take the positives from this weekend which was the speed we had the in the race and the consistency actually we had in the race was impressive.

"My starting position is not on-point yet but we improved compared to last weekend.

"So I just have to be happy because I feel strong and feel I can bring that also in other races."

The Italian insists he won't be worrying about further engine reliability issues.

"I just worry about the things I can control. My job is to jump on the bike and give the maximum and be a professional on and outside the track. I try to that at best.

"About the bike, there are engineers, mechanics, technicians working on that. So I cannot worry about that. I can only worry about my riding and how to set-up the bike. And I'm actually quite happy about that because I was really fast last race and this one as well.

"I was feeling great, I was feeling strong, I was going towards the podium, towards the first position even though it was far. I was able to put in really fast laps in late moments of the race.

"So I'll take this great thing and try to bring it to Brno, Austria and until the finish of the championship… until the finish of my career!"

Commenting on the scorching heat this weekend, which saw air temperatures of 36 degrees and a track temp of 59 degrees during the race, Morbidelli said: "Jerez is always a tough race, with the heat. But this was Jerez on steroids! Because it was even hotter than normal."

Vinales went on to finish second and Rossi third, after Francesco Bagnaia was black-flagged for a late engine problem on his Ducati.

 

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