The three-time race winner and 2020 championship runner-up endured a torrid campaign last year, in which he scored just one podium as he struggled for pace in the first half of the season on his two-year-old Yamaha in Petronas SRT colours.
He was forced out from June’s Dutch TT through to September’s San Marino Grand Prix as he recovered from surgery on a knee injury, by which time he’d been promoted to the factory Yamaha squad on a two-year deal to replace the ousted Maverick Vinales.
Scoring just seven points in the final five races as a factory Yamaha rider in 2021, Meregalli believes Morbidelli’s return was “too early” – but knows the Italian “matches very well” to the M1.
“What I’m expecting from Franco is a kind of revenge after last season, because he had too many things [go wrong],” Meregalli said.
“He started quite well, then he was injured, he decided to have surgery and then he moved to the factory team.
“Probably he wanted to jump back on the bike too early with the aim that the recovery would be shorter, but was probably still worse.
“He used the last races to get used to the new crew, the new factory bike.
“But I’m really curious to see Franco in a good shape, riding the bike as he was used to doing before he got injured.
Franco Morbidelli, Yamaha Factory Racing
Photo by: Yamaha
“He’s used to riding the bike, we know that he matches very well to our M1.”
Morbidelli showed solid form during pre-season testing in February on the 2022 M1, ending the Indonesia test fifth overall.
However, he admits his riding style is still more “linked” to the 2019 bike he rode previously.
“I need to improve still the feeling with the bike,” Morbidelli said when asked by Autosport what he still needs from the new Yamaha package.
“I just jumped on the bike in a good [physical] condition in Sepang, so we started our work with Patrick [Primmer, crew chief] in Sepang – and we started to build up a base and finally we got a good base here [in Indonesia].
“And we managed to get better and better during the three days here, and we managed to squeeze the performance and see something interesting.
“So, I still need some more feeling of the bike, some more knowledge of the bike.
“It behaves differently to the ‘19, I still feel I’m linked more to the ‘19 than the ‘22 bike. So, I need to blend a bit better with the ’22.”
The 2022 MotoGP season begins this weekend in Qatar.