So, the silly season is well and truly underway in MotoGP, with many top riders facing the real risk of being left out in the cold for the 2019 season.
With Marc Marquez extending his stay with the Repsol Honda team, Andrea Dovizioso doing the same with Ducati, Alex Rins committing to Suzuki and the KTM and Yamaha factories already agreeing contracts for the rider line-up for next season, there is the real possibility that some of the best riders in the series won ‘t be lining up on the grid in the future.
Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo is arguably the rider who dictates what will happen to the others. With his time at Ducati punctuated by a large number of poor performances, team bosses are becoming increasingly frustrated with Lorenzo’s lack of result, especially considering his large salary. The smart money is on Lorenzo being pushed out in favour of Pramac’s Danilo Petrucci or Jack Miller. But Suzuki’s Andrea Iannone’s recent form has also impressed, and don’t be surprised to see him back in red.
So, where would Lorenzo go? And who would have him? Suzuki seems like the obvious destination. The bike would suit Lorenzo’s smooth riding style, and with the team looking likely to attract Monster as a main sponsor, the funding would be in place to secure Lorenzo’s services.
However, the Japanese manufacturer is also rumoured to be seriously considering making an approach for WSBK three-time champion Jonny Rea. Rea has always had blistering pace, and when he filled in for Casey Stoner on the Repsol Honda, he piloted the bike to a couple of strong finishes.
So, if Rea does sign, where does that leave Lorenzo? There are no other factory bikes available, apart from the Repsol Honda. But would the manufacturer really want Lorenzo alongside Marquez.
And what of Repsol Honda’s long -time servant Dani Pedrosa? The Spaniard has an incredible record in MotoGP, winning a race in every season he has competed. But the word from the paddock is that this season will be his last in the orange and white Repsol colours.
Moto2 sensation Joan Mir is the outside bet to take Pedrosa’s seat, with LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow also mooted for the ride. The Brit looked to be in pole position to make the switch at the start of the season, with Honda bosses impressed with his work ethos and development skills. But a series of crashes in recent races have made bosses think twice abut his ability to be a No2 Factory rider.
So, where would Pedrosa go? He’s a proven winner, and a proven development rider, and would be an attractive option for Suzuki or whichever team runs the satellite Yamahas once the agreement with Tech 3 comes to an end.
Other riders looking for a ride are KTM’s Bradley Smith, who has been forced out after a series of disappointing races stretching back to last season, with Aprilia’s Scott Redding also believed to be under threat after failing to get to grips with the bike since his move from the Pramac Ducati.
The first piece of the jigsaw is expected to fall into place at Mugello, when Jorge Lorenzo announces his intentions. What this space…