KTM has exercised the option it held over Miguel Oliveira’s contract, extending it for the second year, according to German-language website Speedweek. The Portuguese rider will now race for the satellite Red Bull KTM Tech3 for the 2019 and 2020 seasons at least.
That KTM should decide to sign Oliveira up early is hardly surprising. The Portuguese rider has been quietly impressive since moving up to MotoGP. He rode well in the first half of the season opener at Qatar, before burning up his tires and dropping down to finish seventeenth.
But he learned quickly, and put on an outstanding display in Argentina, just losing out in the battle for ninth from Aleix Espargaro on the Aprilia and brother Pol Espargaro on the factory KTM. In Austin, he finished shortly behind the other factory KTM of Johann Zarco, whom Oliveira has frequently outperformed this year.
The Portuguese rookie is currently sixteenth in the MotoGP standings, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, and Johann Zarco, all three of whom have vastly more experience in the premier class.
With Oliveira’s contract extended through 2020, that leaves only a few seats open for 2019. The biggest open seat is of course the second factory Ducati seat currently occupied by Danilo Petrucci, with Jack Miller, Pecco Bagnaia, and possibly even Alvaro Bautista in play there if Petrucci cannot do enough to retain his ride in the factory team. Miller’s current contract runs out at the end of this season with the Pramac Ducati squad.
The Petronas Yamaha riders, Franco Morbidelli and Fabio Quartararo are also only on a single year contract, but they have so far done more than enough to earn their rides. And Tito Rabat and Hafizh Syahrin are also on one-year deals. Syahrin is the rider in most trouble, the Malaysian struggling far more with the KTM RC16 than he ever did with the Yamaha M1.
But even those with contracts could find themselves in trouble. Andrea Iannone’s disappointing start to the 2019 season could put his place in jeopardy for next year if he does not improve, with rumors that Danilo Petrucci has his eyes on Iannone’s ride if someone takes his spot at Ducati.
Jorge Lorenzo has had a similarly poor start, but his problems have been exacerbated by technical problems with the Honda RC213V, including a clutch issue at Qatar, losing a handlebar grip in Argentina, and then an electrical issue in Austin.
Further decisions about any open seats for 2020 are unlikely to come for the next races. With so few seats available, there is little reason to rush. Most will wait until the summer break after the Sachsenring round.
Source: Speedweek; Photo: © 2019 Gold & Goose / KTM – All Rights Reserved