Franco Morbidelli out of MotoGP action until September, Crutchlow in?

Franco Morbidelli is poised to miss the next four events of the 2021 MotoGP season, paving the way for Cal Crutchlow to return with Petronas SRT Yamaha 

Franco Morbidelli - Petronas SRT Yamaha

Petronas SRT Yamaha boss Razlan Razali says Franco Morbidelli faces a prolonged period out of action following surgery on his knee, with the San Marino MotoGP in September considered his most likely return date.

The Italian - a triple race winner and overall runner-up in 2020 - has been struggling with a knee injury for much of the year, the legacy of accidents during training.

Leading to a curious moment during the French MotoGP when Morbidelli stepped off the Yamaha M1 and collapsed, Morbidelli said at the time the problem gets worse when he is riding in the wet but couldn’t explain why.

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Since then Morbidelli has been visibly struggling and decided ahead of the most recent Dutch TT that he would undergo surgery to repair the meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee with a view to returning after the summer break.

However, though MotoGP doesn’t return to action until August 8 in Austria, Petronas SRT boss Razali says Morbidelli’s most likely return will be at Misano - where he was a race winner in 2020 - on September 17-18-19.

That would rule him out for a further four events, including the two Austrian events, the British MotoGP and the Aragon MotoGP.

“Franco is recovering well from his knee surgery. We want to ensure that he is at 100% before he comes back, so I think that we won’t expect him to be racing again until Misano – although I wish it will be sooner."

Cal Crutchlow poised for extended MotoGP return

Morbidelli’s time out means Yamaha test rider Cal Crutchlow is in line to return to action, though it is unclear whether he would be signed up for all four events.

The Briton called time on his full-time MotoGP career at the end of 2020 in favour of a development role with Yamaha, one that was always expected to include wildcard outings even if he hasn’t participated in one as yet.

Indeed, some eyebrows were raised when Yamaha chose to replace Morbidelli with WorldSBK rider Garrett Gerloff for the Dutch TT despite Crutchlow’s availability and experience.

With the American considered a candidate for a vacant Petronas SRT Yamaha ride for 2022, he could receive another call up as a veiled trial for the ride.

Regardless, Gerloff wouldn’t be available for the next Styrian MotoGP as it clashes with the Czech round of WorldSBK. However, there are no clashes with the remaining three events.