As the MotoGP Championship gears up for its first race of the 2020 season this coming weekend, we get a bevy of announcements from Jerez, Spain.
The first item is that Franco Morbidelli will be continuing with the Petronas Yamaha squad, signing a two-year contract with the satellite Yamaha team. This surprised no one.
More surprising was the silence about the future of Valentino Rossi, as the Italian is expected to announce his move to the Petronas Yamaha garage this week. However, The Doctor may have held his tongue because of the news that was coming from the Honda contingency.
Confirming the paddock rumors, HRC announced that it had signed Pol Espargaro to the Repsol Honda squad on a two-year deal, thus displacing Alex Marquez from the factory-backed team before the Spaniard had turned a single racing wheel with the Japanese manufacturer.
For his loyalty, the younger Marquez brother got an announcement of his own, with HRC releasing news that Alex Marquez had a new two-year contract with HRC, and would race inside the LCR Honda team for the 2021 season.
It remains to be seen how this shuffling will affect Honda’s relationship with brother Marc Marquez, though that is perhaps a topic for another day.
This is because Honda’s game of musical chairs is not over, as this news displaces Cal Crutchlow from the LCR Honda effort, with Honda electing to keep Takaaki Nakagami on the Idemitsu side of the LCR Honda garage.
In its Marquez announcement, HRC thanks Crutchlow for his work with the manufacturer, and with that, rumors and inklings of Crutchlow moving to the Aprilia MotoGP team begins to get very serious.
As explored in the recent Paddock Pass Podcast, Crutchlow’s options could center around the hefty paycheck that Aprilia could be willing to provide, in what will likely be the final moments of the British rider’s racing career.
With Aleix Espargaro unlikely to be leaving the Aprilia squad, Crutchlow’s maneuvers are likely going to leave Andrea Iannone without a job, though the Italian has done a fairly good job of insuring the outcome through is own actions.
We await official word from Aprilia on its rider lineup for next season, and of course, there is still news expected from nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi – though that will likely be later this week, perhaps on Thursday – so one can see that the 2020 rider shuffle is far from over. Welcome back to MotoGP racing.