MotoGP 2011: Who's going where? Rumour mill

Our MotoGP man talks about the riders and their seats for 2011. Rossi's crash has accelerated the gossip

NO MATTER how much people deny it, the Stoner-to-Honda story just won’t go away, with fresh reports in the German-language Speed Week insisting that the Australian and the Japanese company have “agreed terms” to the transfer that will set the ball rolling for contracts for 2011.

With the top four riders all out of contract at the end of the season, such a move could trigger a major rider reshuffle. Many paddock insiders believe it has already begun, and that the other big rumour – Rossi to Ducati – is also coming true.

STONER: For Stoner, having “agreed terms” is not the same as signing a contract, but other signs could be taken to suggest the move is imminent – not least the rider’s own levity in response to persistent questions. He has declined to answer them, but some expect him to be more loyal to Ducati, should he intend to stay there.

A switch to the improving Honda squad would also be a good career move, giving him the chance to join the select band (Geoff Duke, Eddie Lawson, Valentino Rossi) who have won on different makes.

He would also be rejoining ex-Ducati project leader Livio Suppo, who was one of a number of teamsters head-hunted by Honda at the end of last year. Others included three electronic experts from Yamaha. On the other hand, the same rumour mill last year suggested that Stoner’s extended mid-season sick leave had to do with a bad relationship with Suppo.

ROSSI: The biggest problem for the leading player is that he is on record as saying that Yamaha must choose between him and Lorenzo. Yamaha is also on record as wanting to keep Lorenzo, as well as Rossi. But it is thought unlikely they could afford both riders, and comments about “looking to the future” put Lorenzo in the cat-bird seat.

 This in turn puts Rossi in the position of either pulling in his horns and accepting whatever conditions Yamaha wants to impose ... or doing the other thing. Those who know his “what if I hadn’t tried it” philosophy see him accepting an offer from Ducati that is tempting in all sorts of ways, including financially. The all-Italian team would be another powerful draw.

Ducati’s offer is rumoured to be generous. “The Rossi story is just a rumour ... a very nice rumour. But we are speaking to both Lorenzo and Rossi,” admitted project leader Alessandro Cicognani, who predicted that matters would be settled within the month.

LORENZO: Already World Champion designate – though a single crash could change that – Lorenzo seems to be sitting pretty where he is. His rapport with the Yamaha team is good, and with the bike: he doesn’t seem to need Rossi’s settings to get the most out of it.

Aged just 23, it is small wonder Yamaha would want to hang on to him. At the same time, Ducati and Honda would also like him. His market value is soaring.

PEDROSA: Dani’s position is complicated. Within Honda he is under threat from Dovizioso, and if Stoner comes there will be only one seat remaining. But over the past few races he has been stronger and more impressive than ever in his career. If anyone can hunt down Lorenzo, it looks as though it will be him.

On the other hand, his new team-mate Dovizioso is threatening; while there are early signs of major friction between Dani’s guru/manager Alberto Puig and Honda’s new manager Livio Suppo, who will be negotiating contracts.

But Dani is not a leading player in the drama. His fate will depend not only on his own performance, but more on what happens to the other riders. He is doubtless waiting anxiously for some resolution.

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