KTM has to ‘convince’ Raul Fernandez to stay… but does MotoGP rookie want to?

KTM boss Pit Beirer plays down any suggestion its Tech 3 rookie Raul Fernandez isn't happy with the manufacturer ahead of 2022 MotoGP debut

Raul Fernandez - Tech 3 KTM

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KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer says it is his ‘job to convince’ Raul Fernandez to remain associated with the manufacturer going forward despite the MotoGP rookie intimating at some friction behind-the-scenes.

The Spaniard makes his premier class debut with the Tech 3 Racing team in 2022 as a reward for a stellar maiden season in Moto2 that yielded eight victories en route to the runners-up spot behind team-mate Remy Gardner, who joins him in being promoted to MotoGP.

However, despite the opportunity coming earlier than planned, Fernandez has at times indicated at being somewhat unenthused about competing in MotoGP with KTM.

Indeed, KTM had originally only slated Gardner for graduation but after Fernandez’s immediate success in Moto2 prompted an attempt by Yamaha to poach him for 2022, KTM warded off the threat by setting a reported €500,000 contract severance fee before taking up its option on Fernandez and giving him his MotoGP shot.

It prompted some choice words from the 21-year old that suggested he didn’t appreciate missing out on the chance of choosing between KTM and Yamaha, saying: ‘In 2022 I will not run where I wanted to run’.

This was then followed by several months of difficult contract negotiations before Fernandez officially signed on the dotted line, while further evidence of friction came at the Moto2 title showdown in Valencia when he branded himself the ‘moral winner’ by accusing KTM of putting greater support behind his Australian team-mate.

It’s a situation Beirer is all too aware of and while he plays down any suggestion Fernandez is unhappy at KTM, he admits it will be up to the manufacturer to convince him to stay beyond 2022.

“Raul is such a nice guy but he's very emotional, very hot, and it's our job to convince him that the best place to stay is where he is right now, with us."

He also defended the Spaniard’s tendency to express his unfiltered opinion in front of the camera, saying it is only natural at his age.

"It's something we cannot write down, how people feel, how long they should stay with us. We are just working very hard. I mean, we put our heart on the table for our riders and do everything to make them happy.

"With Raul there was a lot of talk, and he's a very young guy, he grew up on the track so quickly, they don't have a chance as young guys to get a normal development like other young people.

"Every time they take their helmet off, there is a camera, there is a microphone, there are many people who ask them questions. Sometimes we put a heartrate measurement on the boys, sometimes you see on TV some calm riders, but some of them have a heartrate of 180bpm permanently the whole race.

"Then they get in front of a camera, 'what about this and that?' Wham! They say something, and that's the headline.”

Does Raul Fernandez want to stay in MotoGP with KTM?

He hasn’t been on the grand prix scene long (his maiden MotoGP campaign will be only his fourth on the international stage) but Fernandez is already becoming a firm favourite among journalists looking to get a juicy headline-writing soundbite.

It’s an attitude that has its pros for teams - fans love an outspoken rider after all - but also numerous cons, as KTM knows only too well from its short but bitter relationship with a ather vocal Johann Zarco.

In Fernandez’s defence, one can understand his gripe at effectively having his MotoGP whereabouts decided without his input after KTM slapped a sizeable price tag on his head. In fact, Fernandez even went on to suggest he’d have rather seen out his contract in Moto2 as planned for 2022 if it freed him up for 2023 to make his own choice.

As for his comments over Gardner in the wake of just missing out on the Moto2 title - despite winning three more races than his more experienced counterpart - these can certainly be justified as the emotion talking, but it’s a continuation of Fernandez’s evident disgruntlement at KTM.

Even so, provided Tech 3 can re-align with the factory team in terms of upgrades as it did during its hugely successful 2020 campaign, Fernandez is probably on a better bike than the year-old M1 he’d have received at Yamaha.

Furthermore, with a renewed opportunity to turn the tables on Gardner on a higher profile stage, Fernandez might well find the grass is actually greener (or more orange) on his side after all.