Petronas SRT’s Franco Morbidelli says he was forced to ride in “safety mode” to 11th in the MotoGP European Grand Prix at Valencia due to high front tyre pressure.
The Italian started from eighth on the grid in Sunday’s race, but was unable to get close to the podium battle in the early stages and soon found himself slipping to the fringes of the top 10.
Morbidelli says the pressure of his front hard tyre rocketed while he was riding in a group and had to bring his Yamaha home in the “safest way possible”. Having put himself into title contention with his Teruel GP win last time out, Morbidelli’s 11th at Valencia means he’s now 45 points adrift of leader Joan Mir and admits his championship chances are “almost gone” with two rounds to go.
“It was a difficult GP for us, very difficult, I was struggling a lot because, when we are riding in a group, there is this problem we have where the front pressure goes sky high and the front gets really, really difficult to ride and really, really difficult to manage and you just have to go into safety mode and bring the bike home in the safest way possible,” he explained.
“So, looking at that, I’m happy I was able to get the bike to the finish line with some points. The championship chances are almost gone, we are much further from Joan, who looks definitely to deserve this championship more than anyone else.
“But the gap between me and the second got smaller, so we’re still in play for that.”
Morbidelli says he had the same tyre pressure issue during the Aragon GP, where teammate Fabio Quartararo also suffered the same fate and plummeted out of the points to 18th. But Morbidelli is unsure if the problem is a general problem of riding in a pack, or if it’s an issue which impacts Yamaha harder.
“I don’t know, physics and science [are] the same for everybody,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com if the problem is unique to Yamaha. “So, I suppose with the temperature also other bikes suffer from this air expansion in the tyre. But I don’t know how much how it affects other bikes and I don’t know how much it expands in their tyres.”
Morbidelli was the only rider on the grid to go for the hard front and rear tyre combination, having spent the entirety of warm-up on the hard rear. But he was unsure if his choice was a gamble because his front tyre pressure issue meant he couldn’t evaluate it properly. He also refused to blame his struggles on the fact he had just 20 minutes of dry running at the weekend.
“I would like to say it affected me a lot, but I cannot because it was like this for everyone,” he added. “So, it affected me, but it affected everyone else. For sure we were not at our prime today, but no-one else was at their prime.
“Well, they [Suzuki] were not at their prime but they were still faster than anybody else.”
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