Morbidelli ready for Malaysian Moto2 showdown
This weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix is the first opportunity for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli to wrap up the championship he's led since the first race in Qatar.
We caught up with the Italian, who currently has a 29-point advantage over closest title rival Tom Lüthi, to talk about his season so far, to find out how he feels about the weekend ahead in Malaysia and to understand what a World Championship title would mean to him.
Did you start the season thinking you could be World Champion?
I started the season thinking we could do a really good job if we worked in the best way, but I wasn't thinking about the championship. All I was thinking about was working in the best way with my team and this is exactly what we have done since the start of the year. As a result we've had some good performances in both halves of this year's championship.
Surely after winning the first three races you must have thought about the possibility of winning the Moto2 World Championship?
I was really happy, and not a little bit surprised, to win the first three races, but I knew things would be a little more difficult once we came back to Europe, because the tracks are different and the feeling is also different.
And this is exactly what happened in Jerez, where I was trying to win again. I maybe pushed a bit too hard, made a mistake and crashed out of the race. From there is was a case of trying to rebuild my confidence and the win next time out in Le Mans helped a lot with that.
You signed off for the summer break with your sixth win of the season at the Sachsenring giving you a 37-point lead over Tom Lüthi. That must have been satisfying, to go into the break with such a big advantage?
Yes, but even then I was more focused on winning races than winning the championship. Sachsenring was a really good race for me, I won and my two closet rivals in the championship crashed out of the race and it was nice to go on holiday with a good feeling and such an advantage in the championship, but still I wasn't really thinking in terms of the championship.
But Lüthi struck back in the second half of the season, with Misano being a critical point in the championship battle.
Misano was maybe one of the toughest moments in the championship for me. It was my home race and, obviously, I wanted to do well there. It was going well, right up until the rain arrived on Sunday. I still wanted to do well in the race and I tried to pull away in the wet, maybe in too much of a hurry, then I made a mistake and crashed out. Tom finished second but then was given the race win when Aegerter was disqualified for a technical infringement.
I was sad for the race itself, not for the championship, because I knew that anything could still happen in the remaining races; it was an open championship when the gap was 37 points after Germany and it was still an open championship when the gap was only nine points after Misano.
After the disappointment of Misano you immediately bounced back with a win in Aragon to set you up for the three overseas races…
The Aragon win was really an important moment because it was really the first race where I was starting to think about the championship and to think about making some strategies, trying to control and make decisions based not on what was best for the race but what was best for the championship.
But in the end I was able to go for the win without too much risk. It was a nice feeling and it was good to come away with 25 points before heading overseas.
It seems that the pressure was starting to be felt in Japan, not only by you but also by Tom Lüthi…
It's true, in Japan both Tom and me were under pressure. I do feel it and I'm sure he also feels it. The race was strange, because Tom started from 12th and I started 15th, which is not a normal starting position for either of us but the pressure can trick you sometimes. It was a hard moment for me, but in the end I managed to come out of it pretty well, recovering a lot of positions to finish eighth and, more importantly, in front of Tom.
Australia was better; less rain and less disruption, a much cleaner weekend conditions wise. We managed to do a good job in the practice and in the race I was feeling good and feeling fast and I was able to fight with the KTM riders, well Binder anyway. I wasn't paying too much attention to either the pressure or being careful, I was just trying to push at 100% to get the best result possible.
It was a good moment because I finished third at the end and Tom could only manage tenth place and, again, we managed to extend the gap in the standings.
This Malaysian Grand Prix is your first opportunity to win the championship you've led since the first race, but will this change your approach to the weekend?
The approach will be the same. My aim again for this weekend is to push at 100% and make a good job in all the practices and not to pay attention too much to the pressure that being in a position to win the championship this weekend brings.
I will just try to do my job and do the best that I can to try to beat Tom in the race on Sunday.
What would the World Championship title mean to you?
This is what I have been dreaming of since I was a little kid. It's already a good feeling just to be fighting for the title, but to win it would be an amazing feeling, although I still don't know exactly how I will feel if I do win it. But for sure it would be a nice thing for me.