“That’s a very strange one for me,” new Factory Ducati signing Jack Miller said recently.
The Australian, who rates Morbidelli as the man to beat based on his form at the end of last season, added that keeping the Petronas rider on the lower-spec bike is “the only question mark I have on him” for 2021.
So why isn’t Morbidelli, who won three races last season, being bumped-up to the same Factory-Spec bike as new team-mate Valentino Rossi plus official Yamaha riders Fabio Quartararo and Maverick Vinales?
“Franky had a great second half to the season and impressed many people with his performance,” said Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis.
“With regard to his spec of bike for this coming season, the spec is chosen by Yamaha and by the teams. But there are also financial consequences to the spec of the bike you have.
“A real factory bike is a lot more expensive than an A-Spec bike. There are also timing issues in terms of when have to place the order for the materials. There are additionally this year Covid issues. We’re not in the most favourable economic times ever.
“The decision for the spec of bike for Franky was taken in the middle of last year. So it’s not something that could have been changed in October or November.
“Does Franky deserve to have top spec? I would say yes. Is it possible? Unfortunately, the answer is no.
“But as you saw last year, the A-spec bike is very similar and very performant. And with the engines frozen, you could imagine that the bike could be equally performant this year as well.
“So I don’t think that Franky will have any big disadvantage.”
Indeed, former Petronas team-mate Quartararo believes it was Morbidelli’s choice to stay with the A-Spec for 2021, after witnessing the problems for the Factory-Spec riders in the final races of last year.
“I remember that last year he [Franky] asked before Aragon to have the 2020 [Factory] bike, and then he asked to have again the [A-Spec] bike he already had for this year,” said the Frenchman.
“So I think it’s a bet, because last year’s bike of Franco was so consistent and also he was also doing a perfect job. I don’t know, he made a choice that I think is also clever, he goes in a different separate way, but I think it’s worth it to have this kind of bet.”
Nonetheless, Jarvis confirmed that the ‘new generation’ Factory-Spec bike should be a much more refined package for 2021.
“If you buy a new car, then generally, it’s better to avoid the first few months! That’s a fact of life,” Jarvis smiled. “And definitely, the factory bike had a generation change last year.
“We can definitely improve that bike in every area this year. So I do think that you will see the Factory-Spec bike more performant and more consistent this year.”
And since those developments include moving the Factory-Spec chassis closer to Morbidelli’s A-Spec bike for 2021, the differences between the two types of M1 is likely to be smaller.
“For sure, the direction that Yamaha has taken for this year’s [Factory] bike is to go closer to Franky’s chassis compared to what we had last year,” said Monster Yamaha team director Massimo Meregalli.
By continuing to have two different bike specifications on track Yamaha will also continue to have access to a wider variety of data.
“[Yamaha] could really see what worked last year and what didn’t, by comparing the two bike specifications,” Meregalli confirmed.