Say hello, wave goodbye: Morbidelli, Dovizioso return, Rossi's long MotoGP ciao

Franco Morbidelli is back from injury as he prepares for Yamaha Factory debut, Andrea Dovizioso returns to MotoGP and Valentino Rossi bids his first 'ciao'

Valentino Rossi, Franco Morbidelli - Yamaha

After a lively - and prolonged - game of music chairs, Yamaha will finally settle on the rider line-up it will take to the final rounds of the 2021 MotoGP World Championship from this weekend’s San Marino MotoGP at Misano.

Fittingly taking place on Italian soil, it will be an emotional weekend all round as Valentino Rossi prepares the first of two goodbyes at Misano on home soil (a second event at the Adriatic venue is scheduled for October), Franco Morbidelli returns from a lengthy spell out injured and Andrea Dovizioso makes his surprise MotoGP return.

Franco Morbidelli to make Yamaha Factory debut

Morbidelli has been out of action since the German MotoGP back in June, the Italian opting to undergo surgery on a niggling knee injury, forcing him out of the next five events despite a five-week summer hiatus in between.

However, if he was expecting a low key return to get up to speed around the circuit he achieved his maiden MotoGP win last year, he will instead have all eyes on him as he dons the blue leathers of the Yamaha Factory team for the first time.

Indeed, much has occurred since Morbidelli last started a MotoGP event. Since then Rossi announced his retirement and former team-mate Maverick Vinales was thrown out of Yamaha for intentionally trying to damage his M1 in frustration.

His exit has duly earned Morbidelli the promotion he originally didn’t expect to get until 2023. Indeed, having been overlooked in favour of Fabio Quartararo for the factory Yamaha ride in 2021 - a decision made before a 2020 season in which he eventually outclassed the Frenchman - Morbidelli saw his fortunes turn with Vinales’ announcement he would leave Yamaha at the end of 2021.

Now that has been brought forward to this weekend on his return to action, where all eyes will be on whether the Italian can again take the fight to his precocious team-mate, now arguably the champion-elect after a stellar 2021 campaign to date.

Andrea Dovizioso makes MotoGP comeback

Morbidelli will be sharing the limelight at Misano though with countryman Dovizioso, who makes a return to MotoGP action having secured the vacant Petronas SRT seat for the remainder of the year and into 2022.

Having lost out on any hope of an Aprilia ride when he hesitated over signing - prompting it to sign Vinales - one could argue Dovizioso has ended up with the better deal. 

However, as Morbidelli knows only too well, his de facto 2019-spec Yamaha M1 isn’t up to scratch against its rivals now having really lost out in the technical freeze but it will give Dovizioso a decent reference point after 10 months out of ation.

It will mark his first outing on a Yamaha - or rather, anything other than a Ducati - since his 2012 MotoGP campaign with Tech 3 Yamaha.

Valentino Rossi’s long goodbye

It is perhaps no coincidence that when the Japanese MotoGP became the latest flyaway event to be cancelled that Dorna and the FIM chose Misano as the venue to host two grands prix before the end of the year.

Of course, the confirmation that Rossi will retire at the end of the year has led to a flood of emotions, retrospectives and listicles, so it’s perhaps only fitting he gets to say goodbye twice to his beloved fans at Misano, located close to his hometown of Tavullia.

Triumph SPEED TRIPLE 1200 RR 2022 | Launch date, Details and Features |