PETALING JAYA: Reigning MotoGP runner-up Franco Morbidelli (pic) feels a podium finish is a realistic aim for Petronas Yamaha Sepang Racing Team at this weekend’s world championship season opener in Qatar.
The Italian will stay on the A-Spec machinery but after a successful pre-season at the Losail circuit, he will still be a match for the factory riders.
Morbidelli finished fourth quickest for the fastest lap time at the end of the three-day testing.
Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, who will ride on a factory-spec Yamaha, will be Morbidelli’s new teammate this season after swapping places with Fabio Quartararo at the official team.
“I think we are ready for the first race of the season. We worked hard in testing, tried several things and then focused on setting up the bike for the Qatar track, ” said Morbidelli, who won three races last season.
“The set-up is never perfect, you can always find things to change and improve but I think we have a really good base.
“To have a good race there you need to be fast, have a good pace, to be consistent and understand which is the right tyre.
“It’s hard to know from testing what the target should be but we want to aim to be in the top five and to fight for the podium – we think it’s possible.
“We will see where we are though on Sunday, ” he said.
With last year’s Qatar Grand Prix cancelled, Morbidelli’s best result in the premier-class to date is 11th place on his debut for the team in 2019.Rossi has good form at Losail having previously visited the MotoGP podium eight times previously, including victories in 2010 and 2015.
Combining this past experience with the positive pre-season test, Rossi is equally confident of a good start with his new team.
“After testing in Qatar, I feel quite strong and the balance of the bike is good. I achieved my best-ever lap of the circuit, which was an important and positive thing to do.
“I think there are a lot of riders on different bikes that are also strong, but we’re definitely in the pack with them. Our race pace looks to be good, so I feel like we are ready to start the season this weekend.
“There is a really good atmosphere in the team; we’ve worked well and in the right direction. I’m excited to start the season properly in a few days’ time.”