When children, we all used to play the game of musical chairs; the music started, everyone went around in circles, and when it stopped, you had to quickly find a place to sit down. Clearly, there were not enough chairs for everyone and one person remained standing. Change the chairs with bike seats and you get an idea of what's going on in the MotoGP transfer market.
For sure, there are some differences, because some riders had already reserved their seats and haven’t even started playing or did so before the others arrived. Marc Marquez, Maverick Vinales, Fabio Quartararo, Alex Rins and Joan Mir have been sitting comfortably for months, watching everyone else play the game.
When the coronavirus upset the world championship in addition to the entire world, many observers were betting on the fact that we would find ourselves faced with a underwhelming rider transfer market, with many being reconfirmed, but instead their managers have been moving – sometimes with surprising results – in this long period of inactivity.
Ducati started the ball rolling by showing Petrucci the door to place its faith in Miller, but it was Honda who really upset everyone’s plans by grabbing Pol Espargarò from KTM and doing without Alex Marquez (in the factory team) even before the Spaniard could start a race. From then on, the game of thrones has become somewhat frantic, for some riders at least.
In fact, some riders have decided to make their own rules, to take their time knowing that they already have a reserved seat. Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi are in no hurry because their places in Ducati and Petronas are already guaranteed, they just have to decide on the conditions. For the man from Forlì, the problem is purely financial, but he is also aware that no one at this time can top the offer (however downsized) from Borgo Panigale. For the Doctor, everything revolves around whether or not he wants to continue, but this aspect appears to be unchanged, plus some details about his team.
Basically, it’s the other riders who are risking their seats. Danilo Petrucci was one of those, but he has shown (together with his manager Alberto Vergani) that he has ready reflexes. Last week he was in Austria to talk about his future and there seems to have been more than just a handshake with KTM. For the rider from Terni, Superbike can wait…
One rider who sees a hazy future is Cal Crutchlow. The Englishman had thought of stopping last year but has changed his mind in recent months. His place in Honda is (something more than) on the line, with Alex Marquez poised to take his place in LCR. Cal has recently been in touch with Ducati, Aprilia and KTM, but without success.
The only possibility at this point could be Noale, waiting to find out what the future of Iannone will be. Bradley Smith will be his replacement pending the sentence, but he does not represent the future. If the CAS acquits Andrea, everything will be fine, otherwise Aprilia will have to make a move on a market with few cards left to play.
So there is the aforementioned Cal, as well as Johann Zarco, another rider in limbo because of the championship inactivity. The Frenchman wants to make a change to his career, the recent past in KTM weighs down heavily on him and without racing it is impossible to convince someone that that was only an isolated episode.
There are other riders without a contract, to be honest. Riders like Franco Morbidelli, but Yamaha and Petronas have repeatedly stated that they want to continue to put their faith in him. Then there is Pecco Bagnaia, for whom the most obvious solution would be to continue with Ducati Pramac (with the hope of following in Miller’s shoes for 2022) but any signature will be held off until he actually demonstrates something on the track.
It’s difficult for us to imagine that Binder or Oliveira will move from KTM. There is little talk of Nakagami too, but sponsor Idemitsu has so far been a sufficient guarantee for his place in MotoGP
Is that the lot? Well….there is someone else, and he’s an (ex) racer who is thinking of shaking things up. Jorge Lorenzo, between said and not said, is trying to see if there is still room for him in MotoGP. A return to Ducati would be possible if Dovizioso leaves, while Aprilia would hardly have the budget for the 5 times world champion.
The music continues to play, there are fewer chairs and someone will be left standing…