Earlier this morning, Team Angel Nieto announced it had handed over its two MotoGP seats to the team managed by SIC (Sepang International Circuit), and shortly afterwards Yamaha confirmed it has signed an agreement to supply the newly-created team with two M1 machines up until 2021. So far, so good, but the riders market may throw up a surprise.
If it's true that one of the Yamaha bikes is destined for Franco Morbidelli, we don't yet know who'll be on the second M1. Pedrosa was looking like the most likely candidate, attracted by the opportunity to move over to the historic 'enemy'.
Having already done so at Barcelona, the Spaniard has again promised to unveil his plans in Germany in a little over a week. It's now looking unlikely that he'll announce a future with Yamaha, and he may well have decided to retire. If this is the case, it means that the team will have a fight on its hands for the last available M1.
With the market having opened, and closed, particularly early this season, there are few riders still available at this point. First the team must decide if it wants an expert rider or a young rookie.
In the first case, the most likely candidate is Alvaro Bautista. A rider with years of MotoGP experience (the only rider on the grid to have ridden for four different manufacturers: Suzuki, Honda, Aprilia and Ducati). There has been contact, but this hasn't gone beyond a few casual chats as the basis for the team was not yet there.
If on the other hand they prefer to bet on a youngster there are two names: Lorenzo Baldassarri and Fabio Quartararo. The first is a VR46 rider, part of the same structure that takes care of Morbidelli's interest, and so the SIC team, in this case, would be a 'family affair'. Lorenzo is in his fifth season in Moto2 and this year, in 8 races, he has scored one win and three podiums.
'Balda' would be ready for the move up, but the biggest problem is his nationality. Team SIC would have then have two Italians and might prefer to be more of an “international” outfit. For this reason, Quartararo might be an option, a rider who came into the championship as something of a favourite but who came up against more difficulties than expected at first. This year, having moved to Speed Up, he seems to back on the right path (he won at Barcelona and came 2nd at Assen) and has thus started to attract some interest.
There might be a third option for Team SIC, or rather choosing a rider “with means”. Both Tom Luthi and Karel Abraham are without a ride and both would bring sponsors to the table that may well help their cause.
No doubt we won't have to wait long to find out who has been selected.