They call it Silly Season for a reason. Every year, the MotoGP paddock engages in intrigue and speculation as to where certain riders will land for the upcoming season.
Lately, this means that the MotoGP Silly Season has its ebbs and flows, as the contract cycle for many of Grand Prix racing’s riders have come into synch with a two-year cycle. As such, it is game-on for this year, as the 2016 season has turned into a perfect game of contractual musical chairs.
We have already seen Valentino Rossi sign a two-year deal with Yamaha Racing, likely The Doctor’s last contract in MotoGP, as many expect the nine-time world champion to retire at the end of that stint.
We have also already seen Bradley Smith sign a two-year deal with KTM’s new MotoGP entry, which is perhaps the ideal situation for both the Austrian factory and the British rider.
These are both important pieces to the Silly Season puzzle, but the seat that everyone is watching the closest is that of Jorge Lorenzo, and whether the reigning world champion will remain as a Yamaha rider, or try his hand elsewhere – likely at Ducati.
The rumors have been strong about Jorge Lorenzo’s future, ever since the conclusion of last season, which saw the Spaniard drawn into the spat between Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez.
It is no secret that Lorenzo and Rossi don’t get along well on a personal level, and their professional attitudes towards each other have certainly been tested over the past 12 months, but is that enough to make Lorenzo jump ship? Could other factors do so?
For the foreseeable future, the Yamaha YZR-M1 is the bike to have in the MotoGP paddock, as the machine handles great in the corners and has closed much of the power gap to the other manufacturers.
Yamaha is keen to retain the three-time MotoGP World Champion, as he is quite possibly the best rider in the series right now, not to mention his riding style is supremely well-suited to the YZR-M1.
Lorenzo has often said that he plans to always be a Yamaha rider, and Yamaha is keen to keep him, the outfit saying it sent Lorenzo a contract offer during the Qatar GP, exactly at the same time it sent its offer to Rossi. Yet, Lorenzo’s camp has been coy about the Spaniard’s future.
It is an open secret that Ducati Corse has its eye on Lorenzo, and rumors are rife that the Italian house has made its own offer to the Majorcan.
Even Giacomo Agostini, the 15-time World Champion turned Yamaha Racing brand ambassador, threw some fuel on the speculation’s fire, saying that Ducati has made a “super deal” to Lorenzo.
Other sources talking to Asphalt & Rubber suggest that number is just north of €11 million, and that Lorenzo already signed the deal. We likely won’t know the truth about that matter until much later in the season, though this weekend will give the assembled MotoGP press in Argentina the first opportunity to pepper Lorenzo with those questions.
A move to Ducati would certainly be a risky move for Lorenzo, as the best crystal balls would suggest that the Movistar Yamaha team is the best place for him to win another championship – the formula has worked thus far, after all.
But the Ducati Desmosedici GP is looking to be a more promising machine, and its clearly the fastest bike in the paddock right, at least in a straight line. A move to Ducati is less of a gamble now for riders, as Gigi Dall’Igna’s efforts to right the ship have clearly panned out. Still, it is gamble.
Poking barbs while talking to the press, Valentino Rossi has egged on Jorge Lorenzo, saying that his move to Ducati took real balls, suggesting that if his Yamaha teammate doesn’t make the switch, it is because of cowardice.
Fans can debate the relationship between bravery and prudence, but the fact remains that Ducati finally again has a bike capable of winning a MotoGP Championship, yet lacks the riders to do so.
Great hope has been placed on the shoulders of Andrea Iannone, though the Italian still needs to mature further to be a true champion. However, the confidence in Andrea Dovizioso has all but left the team – his departure from Ducati Corse team at the end of the season is practically assured.
As such, Ducati’s number one goal right now is to secure an alien-level rider, one who can take the Desmosedici GP into podium territory on a regular basis. The list of riders capable of such a feat is terribly small, and the best target for the Italian outfit is Jorge Lorenzo.
Whether Lorenzo’s interest in Ducati is genuine, or merely a means to ply more money out of Yamaha Racing, time will only tell. There is a lot of smoke around this topic though, and as they say: where there is smoke, there is fire.
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