Team changes are imminent in the MotoGP paddock, according to one insider.
Yamaha Racing managing director Lin Jarvis expects the first moves in the 2017 rider market to be made after three or four rounds of this season.
All of the factory MotoGP riders are out of contract at the end of this year, with the possible exception of Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales, whose team may have an option for a further season.
Jarvis, whose own ‘dream team’ line-up of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finished one-two in last year’s championship, expects riders to use the opening races to gauge how well each manufacturer adapts to the new technical rules before committing to a new deal.
MotoGP is introducing a single ECU and moving from Bridgestone to Michelin tyres in 2016.
“It will be very interesting to see what’s going on off the track this year. All the major teams, all the major riders, their contracts expire. Normally riders would sign for two-year agreements, so there will be a lot of discussions going on,” Jarvis confirmed.
“What most riders will probably do in the beginning will see how their manufacturer is performing with the new circumstances [ECU and tyres]. Because obviously every rider’s number one desire is to be competitive in the next two years of their life.
“So before that they’ll want to be sure and have confidence that the Honda, or Yamaha or Ducati will be competitive. So I don’t know when the first move will come for the contracts but I guess it will be after probably three or four races.
“But maybe sooner, you never know…”
Reigning world champion Lorenzo has been a Yamaha rider since joining MotoGP in 2008 and repeatedly stated his desire to stay, although he has been sporadically linked with Ducati.
After his own struggles at Ducati in 2011 and 2012, Rossi is even less likely to move to another manufacturer. Instead the nine time world champion’s decision will be based on whether, at the age of 37, he wants to continue racing.
Rossi agreed with Jarvis on the likely timeframe for talks about 2017, but Lorenzo hinted he may start even sooner.
“If you know what is going to happen in your future before the first race, this gives you more quietness, not only to me, but to all riders,” he said.
“I am not in a hurry, but we will see if we can have my future ready if it’s possible before the season.”
Both Lorenzo and Rossi denied that last year’s title acrimony will influence their 2017 decisions.
Just two Factory teams, Yamaha and Honda, have won every MotoGP race since Phillip Island in 2010, when Casey Stoner took victory for Ducati. A satellite rider hasn’t won since Toni Elias at Estoril in 2006, underlining the importance of securing a top factory seat.
As well as the present manufacturers – Yamaha, Honda, Ducati, Suzuki and Aprilia – KTM will also join the premier-class in 2017.
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