Marc VDS team manager Michael Bartholemy says reigning Moto2 champion Franco Morbidelli is the most talented rider he has worked with in MotoGP since Shinya Nakano.
Bartholemy spent five years with Kawasaki between 2004 and 2009, first as team coordinator before being promoted to team manager when the Japanese marque split with Harald Eckl in late 2006.
Nakano joined Kawasaki in 2004 and instantly impressed with seven top 10 finishes – including a third-place finish at home at Motegi. He added to his podium tally at Assen with a second in 2006.
Prior to the start of the season, Morbidelli hadn't won a Moto2 race, but Bartholemy believes he was a "different" rider in 2017 and duly promoted him to a MotoGP seat for the 2018 campaign.
“The thing with him, he has enormous talent,” Bartholemy said of Morbidelli, who won eight races on his way to the Moto2 title. “For sure, he is the most talented rider I have had since Nakano.
“You cannot live alone with talent, we know this, so there needs to be also the hard work behind [it], a good team behind [him].
“But the biggest part you need to be a successful rider, he has it, and the rest we need to fine-tune to get the best out of him like we did this year.
"From the first time [Morbidelli was] on the bike in Jerez last year I said to myself, 'OK, we can win the championship,' because there was a different Frankie.”
Morbidelli "afraid" when he joined Marc VDS
Morbidelli admitted he was 'afraid' of Bartholemy when he first joined Marc VDS in 2016, but soon found found him to be the ideal team manager.
“When I first joined this team I was kind of afraid of this guy, because I felt I had to show him that he made the right choice,” said the Italian.
“So I was always feeling this extra pressure towards him, but the truth is it was just me, because he was very good with me, very kind and always trying to calm me down.
“It didn't matter what I was doing in the moment or what I would have done. He was just calm, he was not pushing for results or pushing for speed or something like that.”
Additional reporting by Lena Buffa