Morbidelli was one of the first riders to be taken under Rossi’s wing when the VR46 Academy was founded in 2014, with the Italian going on to win the Moto2 crown in 2017.
Having stepped up to MotoGP in 2018, Morbidelli missed out on the title in 2020 by just 13 points after taking three wins and finishing runner-up in the standings.
But since then Morbidelli’s form has vanished, with a knee injury plaguing him throughout 2021 and difficulties adapting to the factory Yamaha leading to a miserable 2022 campaign.
Ending last year with just 42 points down in 19th in the standings, Morbidelli’s form is a mystery to Rossi’s right-hand man and VR46 team director Uccio Salucci.
“I don’t know, to be honest,” Salucci told Autosport’s Spanish sister publication Motorsport.es when asked what’s gone wrong with Morbidelli.
“If I’m honest I can’t answer your question.
“I’ll tell you one thing, the Academy and Vale personally, is right now 60% focused on Franco Morbidelli and 40% on the other riders.
“We are working a lot with him. It’s not easy, but I’m not able to answer your question what’s wrong with him.
Franco Morbidelli, Yamaha Factory Racing
Photo by: MotoGP
“It’s not just one thing, it’s a lot of little things that come together that we are not able to understand.
“We hope that this year he can be competitive. But now, unfortunately, I can’t give you an answer.”
Morbidelli signed a two-year contract with Yamaha midway through 2021, keeping him in place at the factory squad for 2023 despite his difficulties last season.
Last month, Autosport revealed that Yamaha had been in contact with Moto2 race winner Alonso Lopez, initially as a prospect for a potential satellite squad.
Should Yamaha be unable to secure a satellite partner for 2024 (with links to VR46, who is contracted to Ducati until the end of 2024, repeatedly mentioned and refuted) and Morbidelli continue to struggle, he could find his seat at the factory squad under threat.
Rossi concluded his MotoGP career at the end of 2021 and has since switched to car racing, becoming a BMW factory driver in sportscars this year.