Aprilia: Smith doing a good job but we’re suffering without Iannone

Aprilia Racing boss Massimo Rivola says the team is awaiting the return of 'not guilty' Andrea Iannone, leaving Bradley Smith's team role in question

Bradley Smith, Andrea Iannone

Aprilia Racing boss Massimo Rivola has appeared to dismiss any suggestion Bradley Smith could earn a stay of execution in his provisional 2020 MotoGP race ride with the team if Andrea Iannone is cleared of his drugs ban.

The Briton – Aprilia’s official test rider – stepped into the de facto second rider role occupied by Iannone after the Italian was provisionally suspended in December 2019 when he tested positively for the banned steroid drostanolone.

After his B sample also came back positive, Iannone argued the case that the steroid was mistakenly ingested through contaminated meat. A decision on whether to give him a formal ban or free him up to race is currently under discussion by the International Disciplinary Court, though a ruling could take until beyond the opening round in Qatar.

With this in mind, Smith is already confirmed to ride until that decision in made, though Aprilia raised some speculation of a reshuffle when it confirmed Lorenzo Savadori will become its official test and reserve rider – the position held by Smith.

Suggesting Aprilia isn’t expecting a fast conclusion to the Iannone debacle, Rivola nonetheless says there is no question Iannone – who he is satisfied is ‘not guilty’ – will be on the RS-GP as soon as he is cleared to return.

“We are waiting for Andrea to be back, I hope that this story will finish very soon. He provided all the information for the right judgement now we know he is not guilty, we are happy for that.

“The decision taken by the jury, we don’t know, we have to wait. I hope it is done before Qatar so he has the chance to race, but if not we have Bradley on the bike and if we have to wait we will do it.

“From our perspective, we are suffering and we are missing Andrea 100% despite Bradley doing a good job but we are missing our rider and want him back as soon as possible.”

Rivola’s comments come amid a brewing inter-team storm whipped by the team leader Aleix Espargaro, who declared his ‘relationship is over’ with Iannone after the Italian talked up his input into the new RS-GP, which has shown encouraging performance in testing.

Branding him ‘disrespectful’, Espargaro says Iannone insulted both himself and Smith’s efforts in bringing the bike up to speed, speculating Iannone had little to do with the new bike’s development.